Warriors Nearly pull off comeback, come up short in 116-108 Loss to Houston Rockets
After beating the Chicago Bulls on the back of a stellar game from Klay Thompson, the Golden State Warriors (37-9) traveled to Houston, Texas to take on the Rockets (31-12). This would be a matchup of the two best teams in the Western Conference, and the Warriors were looking to extend their road winning-streak to 15 games. The Rockets would have James Harden in the lineup for the second game since his injury, but they would be without Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green, who were suspended due to a fight in the Los Angeles Clippers’ locker room. The Warriors would be without Jordan Bell, who injured himself in the first quarter against Chicago, and would be out two weeks with a sprained/inflamed ankle. The Warriors would go on to lose the game 116-108.
The first quarter saw the Warriors come out extremely cold on both ends of the floor. They shot the ball at a 42.3% clip, whereas the Rockets came out blisteringly hot, shooting 68.2%. The Rockets, who are the best first quarter team in the NBA, had their tenth 40-point quarter this season, tying them with the Golden State Warriors atop the league. The Rockets were led by James Harden, who finished the quarter with 11 points, and hit his first 3 threes to start the game. He was follow by Chris Paul, who hit two late threes en route to his eight first quarter points. The only Warrior who could get anything going on offense in the opening quarter was Kevin Durant, who had 11 points. The Rockets hit seven threes in the first quarter, while the Warriors hit five. After the first, the Rockets led the Warriors 40-27.
In the second quarter, the Rockets cooled off, and their field goal percentage plummeted from 68.2% to 46.8%. Chris Paul led the team with 16 points, as James Harden was unable to really get going in the second quarter. The Rockets only hit one three, and their 3pt% plummeted from 63.6% to 38.1%. Eric Gordon, one of the Rockets’ best scorers off the bench, was unable to hit a three in the first half, finishing with just four points on 1-8 shooting. The Warriors offense got a little bit better as their field goal percentage rose from 42.3% to 46.8%. Their leading scorer was still Kevin Durant, who finished the half with 14 points. Draymond Green was the next highest scorer with 10 points. David West provided his usual spark off the bench and went 4-5 with eight points. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson both did not have great halves. They finished with nine points and five points, respectively. Steph could not find his stroke, going 3-13, and many of his misses were ugly, or on attempts where he could not draw a foul. Klay Thompson only went 2-4, so his problem was that he wasn’t taking many shots. The real problem with the Warriors in the first half was that they turned the ball over 16 times, and half of those came from Steph and Draymond. Nick Young was able to provide some scoring from deep while Steph and Klay couldn’t get going, finishing with eight points while going 2-2 from beyond the arc. At the half, the Rockets led the Warriors 65-58.
The third quarter saw the Warriors catch back up with the Rockets. Stephen Curry started to get going, hitting several threes and finishing the quarter with 19 points. He was the Warriors second leading scorer behind KD, who had 22. Close behind Stephen Curry was Nick Young, who again provided a big spark off the bench hitting a couple huge shots. He finished the quarter with 14 points. The Warriors shooting continued to get better, and their field goal percentage rose to 52.4%. The Rockets on the other hand, continued to cool off, and they were shooting 46.5% as the buzzer sounded. Their leading scorer was Chris Paul, who had 26 points while dribbling out the clock, pushing off of defenders, and being the most annoying player in the NBA. After the third quarter, the Rockets led the Warriors 92-91.
In the fourth quarter, the Warriors managed to take the lead, but they went back and forth with the Rockets down the stretch and ultimately ended up losing the game. There were several reasons that the Warriors were unable to capitalize on their lead in the fourth quarter, and the most glaring issue was Klay Thompson’s shot selection. He finished the game shooting 3-11, and took an ill-advised turnaround jumped as well as missing several open threes. Now, you have to live with those from Klay, because more often than not, he will make those. Now, the Warriors scored only four points in the last four minutes, which ultimately was their downfall as the Rockets were able to flop their way to the free throw line whenever they wanted down the stretch. The game was a three-point game until there was just over a minute left, then James Harden hit a step back three to ice the game. The Rockets hung on to beat the Warriors 116-108.
The Rockets were led in this game by Chris Paul, who had 33 points, and James Harden, who finished with 22 points. Chris Paul had a very good game, regardless of how infuriatingly uninteresting it is to watch him play. He was able to knock down big shots when it mattered most, and James Harden hit the shot to ice the game. There is no denying the fact that the duo has meshed very well and allows the Rockets to have a great point guard on the floor at all times. The thing with this win though, is that the Warriors played a very subpar game and nearly stole it. I still have absolutely no confidence in this Rockets team beating the Warriors in a seven game series. The circumstances that led to this win just simply won’t happen again the playoffs, and the Warriors offense will be much more refined than it was tonight.
While on the topic of the Warriors’ offense being much more refined in the playoffs, they were absurdly sloppy all night long. Aside from some very bad shots down the stretch, the main problem offensively was turnovers. The Warriors turned the ball over 19 times, and when any team does that, it is nearly impossible to win. The biggest culprits of the sloppiness were Steph and Draymond. Stephen Curry just gave the ball away several times, with poor passes that were intercepted often. He had six turnovers by himself. Draymond Green had a good game outside of his turnover struggles. He committed five turnovers, and several of them were on lob passes that were just too high or too hard for the recipient to grab and do anything with. The Warriors were also plagued by their inability to play clean defense. They commited 24 personal fouls, and while it is my opinion that several of those weren’t actually fouls and were just flops in the lane from the Houston dynamic duo, they still committed far too many fouls to be comfortable with.
The bottom line for this game was that the Warriors had no business winning this game. They were incredibly sloppy on both ends of the court, committing 19 turnovers and 24 personal fouls. While they were incredibly sloppy, they were still able to hang around until the very end and nearly steal a game, which I think is a much bigger deal than the loss. I think that Chris Paul and James Harden have shown us who they really are throughout their career, and what they are, are players who falter in the biggest moments and on the biggest stages. Outside of his three to ice the game, James Harden had an incredibly average game by his standards. Chris Paul did the majority of his scoring in the second and third quarters, and his impact in the fourth quarter was mainly on defense, as he committed several crucial turnovers on offense down the stretch.
My takeaway from this game is that the Warriors are a better team than the Rockets, but the Rockets have had the luxury of facing the Warriors at opportune times thanks to their schedule. The Warriors were in the last game of a five-game road trip, and looked like all they wanted to do was go home. All credit to the Rockets though, they hung on and won, and at least this time they didn’t celebrate like they won the NBA finals like they did on opening night.
Some Warriors players had good games and I feel like they deserve some recognition after tonight. Kevin Durant had a very solid game, finishing with 26 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and two blocks. Draymond Green also had a good game if you ignore some of his passes. He finished with 21 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals, and a block. He also hit two huge threes down the stretch in the fourth quarter, which gave the Warriors the lead. Nick Young also played very well, finishing with 16 points on 6-10 shooting, while also going 4-7 from three. Kevon Looney also had a very solid game defensively, and was able to lock down Chris Paul on several possessions, and more times than any other Warrior was able to.
The Warriors play their next game at home, on Tuesday, January 23, against the New York Knicks at 7:30 p.m.