CBSSports.com NBA writer Matt Moore has covered a lot of games in a lot of arenas. But Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals – a 110-106 Golden State win over Houston on Tuesday – marked his first-ever visit to ORACLE.
“Incredible atmosphere,” Moore said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “It lived up to every expectation I could have possibly had. It was ear-splitting. I had to have my ear buds in most of the game. It was a really incredible atmosphere. Really fun game.”
It wasn’t just the noise that made ORACLE unique, either. It was the energy.
“I talked to a lot of fans before the game,” Moore said. “I talked to guys that were 35-year season-ticket holders, and just the passion and energy in the arena when they started to go on that run – they were nervous in that first quarter.”
The Warriors trailed the Rockets by 16 points in the first half but still managed to lead by three at halftime.
“When they started to get it going, the place just kept building and building,” Moore said. “And every three-pointer, it really pushed them on. You can just tell Draymond Green really fed off that because they needed him to play heavy minutes at center for those small-ball lineups.”
Andrew Bogut was held scoreless in Game 1, but the Warriors still hit 10 threes and shot 46.7 percent from the floor. Golden State found its footing by halftime, but the game turned on Dwight Howard’s knee injury.
“When Dwight Howard (played) in the second half, the Warriors had two points in the paint in his 10 minutes,” Moore said. “In the 14 minutes he missed in the second half, they had 20 points in the paint. That tells you how much of an impact Howard has.”
Green took advantage of Howard’s absence, finishing with 13 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and a block.
“Draymond is really the key to this,” Moore said. “His ability to bump guys that are bigger than him, to bump them off and be able to contest and to keep them out of the basket area is just massive. It allows them to open up the floor, to spread the ball, to run more – and when you have the kind of shooters they do, it makes the defense have to be almost razor perfect. Houston was not really up to that challenge defensively after the first quarter.”
Howard was optimistic that he’ll play in Game 2 on Thursday – or so he said.
“He considers it minor, but they are going to do an MRI (Wednesday),” Moore said. “The rest of the Rockets’ entire tenor about it – and even Dwight Howard’s demeanor about the injury – was a lot more down. There seems to be a level of concern. There’s nothing official yet. Right now its just a bruise. But there is some concern at least going into Game 2 about whether or not he’s going to be available – and if he’s not, this can really tilt the series even more heavily in the Warriors’ favor than it already was.”