OAKLAND – The Warriors and Rockets convene Tuesday night at Oracle Arena for the unofficial Harden-Foster Bowl.
Officially, it's Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals, in which the Warriors have a 1-0 series lead. But the attention placed on basketball is in hot competition with the scrutiny on Rockets superstar James Harden and the officials, particularly crew chief Scott Foster.
Foster is the most unpopular good referee in the NBA, has earned a reputation for thin skin and being unyielding. Harden describes him as arrogant, while one member of the Warriors says his issue with Foster is that "you can't even talk to him."
Foster is considered a road-team friendly ref, which suggests the Warriors are in trouble. The Rockets, however, have lost six consecutive playoff games in which Foster was the lead official.
The game itself matters more to Houston, which is trying to avoid falling into an 0-2 hole. Teams losing the first two games of a seven-game series have come back to win only 7.1 percent (20-262 record) of the time.
Pregame coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area Plus begins at 6 p.m. with Warriors Outsiders, followed by Sports Net Central, with postgame coverage immediately after the TNT telecast.
F – Andre Iguodala
F – Kevin Durant
C – Draymond Green
G – Klay Thompson
G – Stephen Curry
F – Eric Gordon
F – PJ Tucker
C – Clint Capela
G – James Harden
G – Chris Paul
Warriors: C DeMarcus Cousins (L quadriceps tear) and C Damian Jones (L pectoral surgery) are listed as out.
Rockets: G Austin Rivers (illness) is listed as questionable.
Warriors: Coach Steve Kerr provided no hints as to his starters in Game 1 before unleashing the Hamptons 5. Kerr said he'd probably go back to that group for Game 2, and given its effectiveness there's no reason he shouldn't.
Curry's foul issues, which cropped up against the Clippers, followed him into this series. He committed five in Game 1, forcing Kerr to alter his usual rotation. Will this be the game in which Curry stays out of trouble?
Center/forward Kevon Looney continues to be highly effective, particularly regarding his defense when switched onto Harden. After hunting that matchup in Game 1, Harden might be ready to away from it after Looney's presence forced two shots that completely missed the rim.
Iguodala played 34 minutes in Game 1, about eight more than ideal. With four days between Games 2 and 3, Kerr might be willing to stay in the same range.
[RELATED: KD hopes focus isn't on refs]
Rockets: Coach Mike D'Antoni pulled a surprise in Game 1, calling upon seldom-used big man Nene, who responded with 14 solid minutes. That left backup PF Kenneth Faried, whose energy can be contagious, out in the cold. He never left the bench. D'Antoni likely will choose between these two, based whether he wants to stay big or go small.
Capela, who fought a virus in the first-round series against Utah, still doesn't look like himself. He totaled four points and six rebounds in 27 minutes in Game 1. His presence as a lob threat was beautifully neutralized by the Warriors in Game 1.
Tucker was scoreless (0-4 FG, 0-3 3p) over 39 minutes in Game 1, missing three open looks. If he can't make the Warriors defend his corner 3-ball, D'Antoni may lower his minutes in favor of Danuel House Jr. or Faried.
Officials: Scott Foster (crew chief), Ed Malloy, Eric Lewis. Alternate: Rodney Mott.