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Rockets, Warriors Renew Rivalry With 6 Olympians At The Forefront

By Chrös McDougall | May 01, 2019, 11:20 a.m. (ET)

Andre Iguodala guards James Harden during game one of the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on April 28, 2019 in Oakland, Calif.


The NBA and NHL playoffs are now well into their second rounds, and 13 active U.S. Olympians are still going strong. Let’s take a look at how those players are doing.

Olympic Teammates Go At It In Rockets-Warriors Series
Any good vibes from an Olympic bromance are being put on hold this week as the Rockets and Warriors renew one of the NBA’s fiercest rivalries, a series that includes six active Olympians.

Houston guard James Harden (2012), the NBA scoring champ the last two seasons, dropped in 29 points and added seven rebounds in Game 2 on Tuesday, despite a knock to the eyes earlier in the game. “I barely could see,” he said.

But forward Kevin Durant (2012, 2016), the two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP, scored 29 points of his own for Golden State, leading the team to a 115-109 win and a 2-0 advantage in the series.



Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Durant joins three other U.S. Olympians in the Warriors’ starting lineup. Klay Thompson (2016) posted 21 points and five rebounds of his own, while Draymond Green (2016) added 15 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Even veteran guard Andre Iguodala (2012) scored a playoff-high 16 points. And to think, the Warriors could have one more Olympian on the floor if Demarcus Cousins (2016) was healthy.

Harden has some Olympic-sized help in point guard Chris Paul (2008, 2012), who added 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists in Game 2, but the Rockets are learning once again just how hard it is to knock off the Warriors, who have won three of the past four NBA titles.

That’s not to say there’s any love lost between the two teams. ESPN reported this week that the Rockets alleged to the league that referees “likely changed” the outcome of their Game 7 loss to Golden State in last year’s Western Conference finals. That report came just hours after controversial calls (or no calls) dominated the ending of a close Warriors win in Game 1, with Paul’s frustration boiling over into an ejection in the final moments of the game.

The Rockets will aim to claw their way back into the series when it moves to Houston on Saturday for Game 3.

Faulk Is Awesome
Shut out of the playoffs since 2009, the Carolina Hurricanes are one of the NHL’s hottest teams. Riding a wave of goodwill in a resurgent season highlighted by their quirky “storm surge” win celebrations, Carolina reached the playoffs as a wild card and promptly dispatched of the defending champion Washington Capitals in seven games. Now the Canes are already up 2-0 over the New York Islanders in the second round, with defenseman Justin Faulk (2014) having provided three assists while averaging more than 26 minutes of ice time so far in the playoffs. “He’s turned the corner this year, and he’s continued on into the playoffs,” coach Rod Brind’Amour told the News & Observer. Game 3 is tonight in Raleigh.



Pavelski’s Presence Presides
The San Jose Sharks are still without Joe Pavelski (2010, 2014), though the captain’s presence is certainly being felt. Pavelski left Game 7 of the first round after being taken down hard off a face-off in the third period. Trailing 3-0 to the Vegas Golden Knights at the time, San Jose woke up after Pavelski’s injury and promptly scored four straight power play goals before eventually winning 5-4 in overtime. With Pavelski out until at least Game 5 of the second round, the veteran center has reportedly stayed close to the team, offering advice to coaches and teammates during his absence. It seems to be working, as the Sharks have jumped out to a 2-1 series lead against Colorado.

Veteran defenseman Erik Johnson (2010), meanwhile, has played every playoff game so far for the Avalanche. Game 4 is set for Thursday.



It’s Jimmy (Or Is It Kyle?)
Jimmy Butler (2016) was so good in Philadelphia's Game 2 win over Toronto on Monday that his coach, Brett Brown, made a point of praising the wing in the post-game press conference. “This was James Butler,” Brown said. “That was the adult in the gym.” Turns out, he was just being Jimmy. “My name isn’t James,” Butler clarified. “It is literally Jimmy.” Either way, he posted a dominant stat line of 30 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and a blocked shot in the 76ers 94-89 win to even out the series at one game apiece.

Point guard Kyle Lowry (2016) and the Raptors aren’t out of it yet, though. He dropped 20 points of his own in Game 2, and they’ll have another chance to take a series lead on Thursday.



Ups And Downs In Boston
After sweeping through the first round, the Boston Celtics are in a battle for their playoff lives against the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. Point guard Kyrie Irving (2016) starred for Boston in Game 1, scoring 26 points as the Celtics won by 22 points. However, the Bucks held Irving to just nine points on 4-of-18 shooting as they came back for an equally dominant Game 2 victory on Tuesday. The teams meet for Game 3 on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Bruins are looking to come back from a 2-1 series deficit against the upstart Columbus Blue Jackets. Veteran center David Backes (2010, 2014) has played in four of Boston’s 10 playoff games so far, with one assist, though he’s yet to see the ice in the second round. That could change when they meet for Game 4 on Thursday.



Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

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Kevin Durant

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Jimmy Butler

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Chris Paul

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