Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets lived up to its billing, especially the budding guard duel between MVP Stephen Curry and runner-up James Harden.
Snatching up a 110-106 victory for a 1-0 series lead, Curry was on fire from the field, going 13-for-22 including 6-for-11 from three, with a game-high 34 points to lead the Warriors.
Harden wound up an assist shy of a triple-double, which would’ve been his second of the postseason, with 28 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists and shot an excellent 11-for-20 from the field.
It was a classic scoring showdown that could get even better as the series unfolds. What’s scary, and has fans salivating for Thursday night’s Game 2, is that both Curry and Harden weren’t even at their peaks.
Based off his shot chart of Game 1 above, Curry shot at least 50 percent from nearly every spot on the floor except for two three-pointers from the right wing. He was especially lethal from the top and left of the three-point line, and deep range in both of the baseline corners. Curry was also 3-for-5 on his drives to the basket, where a majority 22.7 percent of his shot attempts came.
Harden’s chart shows he was effective from mid-range, working just inside the top of the key and the two spots flanking and going 4-for-6. But his work at the basket was even better at 4-for-7 shooting for 35 percent of all his attempts.
But take a look at Curry’s and Harden’s shot charts throughout the 2014-15 season.
You’ll first notice Curry shot poorly from the right wing inside the three-point line, and comparing it to his results in Game 1 he wisely stayed away from that area and played to his strengths. Secondly, Curry’s work at the rim dipped slightly, and that’s because the Rockets defense refused to give him easy layups on the right of the basket. That could change if Curry uses his otherworldly ball-handling to maneuver around the Houston defense, or if the Warriors find a way to draw Houston’s Dwight Howard away from the basket or get him into foul trouble.
Harden’s season chart appears strikingly different than his work in Game 1, but he took 1,471 shots during the regular season, the second most in the league and only one less than Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook. Harden also had to take most of the Rockets' attempts because Howard missed half the season due to injury.
But Harden, a lefty, dominated the left wing and interior with 58 percent shooting on layups and 45.9 percent on jump shots.
You’ll also notice he took far more three-pointers in the regular season, and was most effective at the top of the key and from the right corner. In Game 1, Harden took only three attempts from deep range, instead deferring to Josh Smith and Trevor Ariza.
During the regular season Harden put up 6.9 three-pointers a game, a steep drop off. He also got to the free throw line only six times in Game 1, down from 10.2 a game in the regular season. No one took more trips to the charity stripe than Harden’s 824.
All this means there’s plenty more in store as Curry vs. Harden II takes place Thursday.