With three minutes left in the third quarter, Josh Smith (5 points, 2 rebounds, 14 minutes) seemly got fouled on a shot attempt in the paint. He rose up against David Lee (9 points, 10 rebounds, 20 minutes) losing the ball, but coming down favoring his right knee. Clearly frustrated with the no call, Smith voiced his frustration at a ref and was ejected after two quick technicals.
Too bad it was one of the sorriest attempts at drawing a foul. He barely got touched, didn't get hurt, and seemed to keep running his mouth in order to get thrown out than anything else. It was lazy, cowardly, and full of excuses, just like this Houston Rockets team was tonight.
It was pathetic.
This one was supposed to be different. It actually started that way. Then the second quarter came and went downhill fast.
It took all of four minutes for the Houston Rockets to completely fall apart. The Golden State Warriors went on a 20-3 run with 7:36 left in the game and the rout was on. The lead was eventually stretched to 30 with five minutes to go in the third, but in the fourth quarter Houston surprisingly pulled off a 18-5 run with a lineup of Kostas Papanikolaou, Corey Brewer, Jason Terry, Joey Dorsey, and Alexey Shved.
It didn't matter, once Golden State's starters came back in the game the Rockets would fall again to the Golden State Warriors, 126-113.
Don't let the final score fool you, this one was as bad as it gets for the Rockets.
James Harden (33 points, 14-16 FT) seemed to be the only Rocket that was ready to play tonight. He scored the first nine Rocket points showing much more aggression in getting in the paint than in Saturday's game against the Warriors. Klay Thompson (27 points, 4 steals) and Andre Iguodala (7 points) had less success, but it didn't matter, 33 points when you're the only starter in double-figures is just a drop in the bucket when you need a gallon.
I thought the Dream Shake crew made it clear that last time the Rockets "lacked effort, intensity, and determination on both sides of the court," "the Rockets have shown no confidence when facing the Warriors," and "most embarrassing defensive performances in recent memory." Well I might as well copy and past today's preview into this space, because it is beyond me as to how the Rockets could repeat the exact same mistakes a few days later.
The offense was out of sync with Dwight Howard (7 points, 11 rebounds, 5 TOs, 5 fouls) getting shut down this time. Andrew Bogut (9 points, 10 rebounds, 5 blocks, 22 minutes) blocked him three times in the first quarter, beating Dwight on the boards throughout and frustrating him into silly fouls.
Houston tried going to Howard in the second quarter when the Warriors trotted out a smaller lineup, but he couldn't make anything, missing bunnies at the rim religiously. He had trouble backing down 6'7" 230lb Draymond Green (18 points, 6 rebounds) for crying out loud.
He was just a part of the effort issue. Because of the Rocket's sorry offensive execution, the spotlight shined brighter on their even worse defense. The Warriors had 15 fastbreak points in the first nine minutes of the game. The Rockets offense consisted of James Harden drives into traffic for fouls, Dwight post ups that went nowhere, and general chucking out of isolations (looking at you Trevor Ariza and Corey Brewer).
Houston's lack of ball-handling on the perimeter came back to bite them as the statue known as Jason Terry was forced into being an over-matched point guard off the bench. Third all-time in made threes, Terry is just not able to orchestrate the offense (paging Isaiah Canaan).
A 11-2 Rockets run at the end of the first that brought the lead to three (after being down 12), and the end of the game run were the only signs of life from this team. Unless you count the fouls and technicals involving Ariza, Patrick Beverley (6 points, 3 assists), and Steph Curry (22 points, 10 assists).
It started with Golden State up by 22 early in the third quarter. Curry, received a technical foul while bumping and grinding with Beverley. Steph was called for an offensive foul on the next play, after clipping Ariza with a screen. Ariza took exception to the foul and bumped Curry with his forearm as he walked past him.
Curry came after Ariza, yelling while being restrained by Green. Ariza got a technical, but instead of waking up a sleepwalking Houston team, the Warriors peeled off a 10-2 run setting the stage for the end.
I can't say the the Warriors are a more talented or more skilled team, they just know who they are. That was evident in this game. The Rockets looked lost most of the game, seemly uninterested in mounting an effort - as if they realized that they just can't beat this team. A trade for some creators may be in order in the longer-term, but in the short-term this Rockets team needs to grow a spine.
They can match Golden State's scoring, they have enough to field a championship defense, but tonight proved they're missing the one thing that separates them from their opponent - their heart.