Nineteen turnovers later, the Rockets dropped their first road game in four tries at the hands of a Golden State Warriors team that absolutely refused to miss momentum-swinging shots. Home crowds play with and-ones and three-pointers like little kids with silly puddy. Unfortunately for Houston, the Warriors found both in bunches, turning a slim third-quarter lead into what felt like a rout by the final whistle.
I'd like to believe the Warriors won this game more than the Rockets lost it, but Houston tore up the glass, got to the free throw line and forced fifteen turnovers themselves. The difference was the shooting: Golden State shot 13-24 from deep and finished over fifty percent from the field. As often as teams can die by the three-pointer, there are those few moments where they can instead live like kings from behind the arc. Houston felt the full brunt of Golden State's extracurricular shooting and got fed up to the point that they basically said, "Screw this, let's get out of here," as the final two minutes slowly ticked away.
Also, sometimes you can stop Monta Ellis, and sometimes he reminds you why a small percentage of the country thinks he's still the next Kobe.
My thoughts, after the jump:
1) The Painted Area, Left Relatively Untouched
It's a little nerve racking that Houston scored a mere 26 points in the paint against a perennially thin Warriors team. Granted, the Rockets took thirty-three free throws (only making twenty-four), but there were a handful of easy opportunities for and-ones that Houston missed.
Sam Dalembert took the night off after realizing how horribly he matched up with the Warriors' youthful bigs, and from there, only Kevin Martin and Luis Scola attacked the rim. Everyone else -- especially Kyle Lowry -- resorted to outside shots against an undersized opponent.
2) Vintage Kevin Martin
Not only did Kevin Martin break out of his shooting slump -- he also rediscovered his driving abilities and took full advantage of the shorter defenders. I don't expect this to last and nor should you, but it was refreshing to see a few clips of Speed Racer at his very best.
3) The Bench Is Human
Rarely will losses be pinned upon the second unit, and tonight's game follows the norm. The bench played like a good bench -- combined, it scored twenty-nine points and kept Houston in the game through three quarters. The starters didn't necessarily drop the ball, but when the backups revert back to form, they can't expect to succeed with a merely pedestrian starters' effort.
4) Point Guards Get Shown The Door
Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic failed their test against a good group of Warrior guards -- they combined to shoot 3-12 and got collectively torched by Monta Ellis, whose night took off once he shook Chandler Parsons. Lowry played like the basketball equivalent of a quarterback trying to aim rather than simply let loose and throw. Actually, I take that back: on a few possessions, Lowry hoisted up long three-balls without ever testing the lane. I hate to see him lose his GO-ness inside the arc in favor of becoming a picky passer. He needs to rekindle his old drive on nights like these, as opposed to settling for heaves.
5) Final Takes
I'll maintain my initial stance that this was a perfectly loseable game from the start. The Rockets of old matched up beautifully with the run-first Warriors, but these two teams have since switched gears a bit, and when the Rockets tried to slow it down and use their size, Golden State fired back with a three-point barrage and surprisingly effective defense. The Warriors took advantage in the pick and roll game and kept finding creases around, over and through a hedging Luis Scola. And when Houston tried to crash the lane in assistance, driving Warriors kicked the ball out to Klay Thompson, Steph Curry or Brandon Rush for the open three. Sometimes it wasn't so open, and the Warriors made those shots, too.
It hurts to see Houston lose a game that was so close through three quarters, but in the end, Golden State's legs rode the wave of its home crowd, while Houston's gave out and drowned underneath. The Rockets will get a day off before taking on Memphis at the FedEx forum. If they can end the road trip on a high note, they'll have a good chance to surprise Oklahoma City at home, where they've already nearly knocked off the first place Thunder before.