Coming into tonight's match up, the Warriors had lost four games in a row to the Rockets, Thunder, Grizzlies and Mavericks in that order. Just one week ago the Rockets embarrassed the Warriors in Houston and tied an NBA record for three pointers made; Mark Jackson and his team were not gracious losers. Tonight the Rockets earned their second critical win against the Warriors, 116 to 107, who edge Houston in the Western Conference playoff seedings. The showdown was not the blood thirsty redemption crusade I was expecting and at the end of the first half the home town team had blown a chance to take advantage of some favorable circumstances. James Harden was limited throughout the game by a sore knee and he rolled his ankle so terribly in the second half that he might not play again until the All-Star Game.
The Rockets can attribute tonight's win to Chandler Parson's second half performance, Jeremy Lin's flawless "homecoming" debut, and a hobbled James Harden's ability to somehow still get to the line. Parsons came alive in the third quarter to swing the momentum of a close game and finished with 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 9 assists. Lin managed to scrape together 14 points on a poor shooting night and added ten assists while turning the ball over zero times. Omer Asik's 13 point, 15 rebound performance was priceless. His offensive contributions, while they always feel like a bit of a bonus, were key in the second half. Boy, can this guy eat glass.
The Warriors entire starting line up short of Klay Thompson found themselves in foul trouble by the end of the game. Stephen Curry (27 points, 6 assists) and Klay Thompson (22 points) were both brilliant tonight on the offensive end but they had very little help from anyone else when it counted aside from Jarret Jack off the bench.
One word that would sufficiently describe the first half of this game would be anticlimactic. There was a tangible plea for retribution before the tip tonight from the Oracle Arena. I was expecting a few more sparks to fly out of the gates but this basketball game was more a chess match then a shootout and early on it worked in Houston's favor.
The Warriors started the game off with a more disciplined offense the Rockets. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were both the recipients of more than a couple well-drawn plays. Andrew Bogut was the only guy on the court who really came out ready to play from the very beginning and considering his limit on minutes I would say that is very appropriate. Bogut made his presence felt on the glass early on and made Omer Asik look like a rookie in the post defensively. While Bogut won the match-up initially, Asik's second wind was equally governing. Both centers were tied at seven rebounds by the end of the first quarter. Asik scored more points and even had a sorta-graceful drive to the rim from the three-point line somewhat reminiscent of an ostrich.
The Rockets had problems keeping the Warriors out of the paint in the first quarter which is unusual for a team so traditionally dangerous from outside. Fortunately, the interior scoring tapered off in the second quarter.
Early in the second quarter the Rockets chose to guard Carl Landry in the post with Houston's own Cole "Country Strong" Aldrich and it worked. I think that Aldrich is just big and slow enough to confuse a low post like veteran like Carl Landry and I also think we have finally found a use for Aldrich.
There were two things going on during the first half that prevented James Harden from imposing his will: an aggravated knee injury and some intelligent man defense from Harrison Barnes. Barnes was not biting on pump fakes and was channeling Harden to his weak hand. Earlier today, it wasn't clear if James Harden would play tonight due to a sore left knee. During the first half of the game Harden looked like he was limited with his movements and his on court demeanor was noticeably unnatural. With Harden unable to find his stroke he resorted to driving the ball inside to draw fouls where his sore left knee made contact with several Warriors.
James Harden wasn't the only NBA All-Star who struggled in the first half. David Lee missed all but one of his shots and the vast majority of those looks were completely uncontested. Jeremy Lin had a strong first half even though he only hit one shot during the first two quarters. Lin was able to get to the line three times, hit all of his free throws, and had five dimes. Patrick Beverly provided valuable minutes off the bench and is the kind of tempo changing tenacious defender off the bench that reminds me of good 'ole Kyle Lowry before he got a big head.
The title of this article refers to a blown opportunity. What I'm referring to was Golden State's failure to pounce on the following in the first half:
- The Rockets shot a worse percentage from the field
- The Rockets had more turnovers
- The Rockets were giving up points in the paint and allowing the Warriors to shoot from outside
- The Rockets star player was in pain and not performing well
And yet the Rockets lead by one point at half time.
Stephen Curry, this season's majority pick for All-Star snub, almost immediately picked up his fourth foul at the start of the third quarter and was not seen for quite some time. The quarter that followed was both treacherous and exciting.
James Harden jettisoned off on a fast break in the third quarter and rolled his ankle on David Lee (who picked up his fourth foul). The ankle roll was serious and by the time Harden was on his feet to shoot free throws it was clear that the already impaired guard could not even walk let alone run. After shooting his free throws, James Harden left the court for the locker room. I probably don't need to tell you all this but there was some serious concern in tonight's GameThread. Kudos to the Golden State announcers for immediately speculating on how Harden's injury could open up a spot for Stephen Curry in the All-Star Game. Those guys are a real class act. Inexplicably, Harden returned almost immediately from the locker room and played through the rest of the third quarter.
Chandler Parsons took over in the third quarter and scored 11 of his 21 points while adding enough rebounds and assists to flirt with a triple double. With the Warriors starting to turn the ball over and Patrick Patterson serving as Mr. Reliable from around the basket the Rockets ended the quarter with a nine point lead.
Parsons picked up where he left off in the final quarter of the game intercepting passes, making plays, and scoring buckets. Marcus Morris and David Lee did battle in the fourth each scoring easily on the other. Morris had two monster slams and a three pointer. David Lee was scoring in the low post but fouled out before the close of the game. With the Rocket's swingmen cutting from side to side on offense and finding open looks the lead in the fourth quarter was never less than six points. Aside from a brief shooting run early in the fourth, the Warriors were fragmented and couldn't keep up with Houston's pace. James Harden, needles to say, wasn't needed much in the fourth quarter. That didn't stop Harden from sending the game off to pasture with an explosive dunk attempt that put him on the line and a fading three point make.
It's unclear whether James Harden's right ankle sprain will keep him off the court tomorrow night for a big game in Los Angeles but what is clear is that the beard is tough. Harden must have been in that locker room for less than two minutes before he was ready to get back on the floor and help his team secure a win. This is another victory with serious playoff implications as the Rockets claw their way towards the playoffs.
For more, check out Golden State of Mind.