Stephen Curry's magnificent performance (27 points, 11 assists, 7 rebounds) propelled the Golden State Warriors to a 131-106 blowout win to improve GSW's league-best record to 32-6.
Houston allowed a season-high 131 points to the running-and-gunning Warriors. Throughout the game, Houston seemed simply disinterested in playing transition defense. The Warriors outscored the Rockets 23-16 on fast break points.
Furthermore, their pick and roll defense against Curry was disorganized and they were too slow to close out on the perimeter shooters. Klay Thompson provided 27 points for the Warriors. He was 3-5 from distance.
The Warriors' defensive game plan was to run shooters off the three-point line and try to eliminate the dynamic in which the Rockets live and die by. This strategy was ultimately very successful and may expose the Rockets as a mediocre team when threes are taken out of the equation. The Rockets went a dismal 7-23 from downtown as the Warriors focused on limiting the bombs.
The Warriors managed to suppress Harden by blitzing him off the three-point line and forcing him into contested mid-range jumpers. Klay Thompson did an excellent job on Harden and Andre Iguodala was also solid defensively off the bench. James Harden finished the game with just 12 points on 4-15 shooting and 0-4 from behind the arc.
James Harden's shot chart via ESPN:
With more focus on getting the ball inside, Dwight Howard got much more touches down low than he normally does. "D12" was the lone bright spot for the Rockets. He recorded a big double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
Besides Dwight's low-post game, the Rockets' half-court execution left much to be desired. They were very stagnant, especially in the third quarter. They relied too much on 1-on-1 isolations while the Warriors finished the game with 10 more assists.
Another spot where the Warriors exploited Houston was the bench scoring disparity. Houston's usual spark off the bench was nowhere to be found. Houston's bench was outscored 54-39 and most of those 39 points came in garbage time as the starters watched from the sideline.
But the game wasn't always a blowout. The first half was truly a game of runs as neither team could pull ahead for a significant amount of game time. The Warriors began the game on a 9-2 run, but the Rockets answered with a 14-2 streak of their own. The half ended in similar fashion as the Rockets' 7-0 run was negated by a 9-0 response from Golden State. Houston was held scoreless for the final 2 minutes of the half.
The Beard had just 7 first half points off a disappointing 2-10 shooting clip. With an ineffective Harden, Houston looked to feed Howard in the post. Golden State's Andrew Bogut was in foul trouble and the Warriors simply couldn't match up with Howard. Superman had 14 first half points but Houston trailed by 5 at halftime.
The Rockets continued their slump into the third quarter as Houston came out very sloppy. They had two turnovers and three ill-advised fouls on jump shooters in the first two minutes of the 3rd quarter. The Warriors blew the game open in the third, winning that quarter 38-21.
Golden State sustained its dominance into the fourth quarter as they kept pace with the Rockets even when their foot was off the pedal.
This is a very disheartening loss because of the lack of effort and intensity. I would have loved to see the Rockets come out of the gate with fire and throw the kitchen sink at the Warriors because Golden State is the NBA's team to beat. However, the lack of defense was disappointing and the game didn't come close to resembling a playoff-like atmosphere, even when the game was close.
But hey! At least we have the Pacers to look forward to on Monday.
In case you missed the game, here are some notable highlights. The last one sums up the game best, unfortunately.
Beverley with the bounce pass to a cutting Harden for the layup on NBATV! #NBARapidReplay http://t.co/HUVlYUp6zd— NBA (@NBA) January 18, 2015
Shake. Bake. Short-corner step-back from Harden on NBATV. #NBARapidReplay http://t.co/M8EvePLZWL— NBA (@NBA) January 18, 2015