Whether it was the late Bay Area legend Mac Dre’s “Thizzle Dance” blaring through the Chase Center speakers or the just the youthful bounce in their step, the Golden State Warriors looked like their 2015-2019 selves against the Houston Rockets, who suffered a 120-107 loss on Sunday night.
A large part of why this game looked so reminiscent to the Golden State of old is because the Rockets were right there with them towards the end of the opening half; despite Otto Porter Jr. drilling three-straight from beyond the arc which helped them jump out to a 69-61 lead heading into the locker room.
In the third quarter, Houston fell victim to one of those daunting third-quarter runs that helped the Warriors win championships, they outscored the Rockets 34-22 and took a 103-83 lead into the final quarter where it was a too-little too-late spurt that trimmed the final score to 120-107 and gave Houston their eighth straight loss.
In their recent outings, they’ve been able to string together impressive performances. They had a shot at beating the Los Angeles Lakers but fell 119-117, they were competitive against Phoenix before the Suns took over the game and won 123-111, and they came incredibly close to knocking off the Denver Nuggets but were denied at the rim in a 95-94 loss. Of course, these games will simply go down in the loss column when opening up the history books, but right now, they are providing Houston with confidence.
There is a common saying that states, “there are no off nights in the NBA,” and while that’s true, there certainly are teams that pose less of a threat, which in turn makes it harder to get up for that game. Unfortunately for the Rockets, they are one of those teams. But as they continue to provide unexpected stress to contenders, it allows them to heighten their reputation due to how hard they are playing. It is also is a recipe for improvement.
Here’s another saying: “If you are the best player at the park then find a new park.” What this means is that you aren’t going to improve unless going against someone better than you. If the Rockets were to play against the Oklahoma City Thunder every night, they’d win a whole bunch of games, but would never get an understanding of their true selves, now if you were to replace OKC with a contender, it’d result in a lot of losses but also lessons; which is what a young team needs most.
This is important to remember when considering the development of Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr., who have both had a rough start to the year. Each of them is going against guys that are either better than them or just more experienced almost every night - while this often has to lead to eye-sores in the post-game box score, it’s critical for them in the long run because they’ll eventually be able to give out lumps. But first, they have to take them.
As for Sunday night’s game, the Rockets saw a big performance from Jae’Sean Tate who has continued to let the coaches know they made the right decision by giving him the starting nod. He had 21 points and knocked down 2-4 of his shots from beyond the arc while also pulling down 10 rebounds.
But without the additional scoring presence that Eric Gordon typically brings, Houston’s offense had its woes, as their second-leading scorer was Daniel Theis, who had 14 points, and behind him was Alperen Sengun with 12 points, and then D.J. Augustin and Kevin Porter Jr. who scored 11 apiece. With Gordon out with injury, both Josh Christopher and Armoni Brooks each racked up double-digit minutes to the pleasure of Rocket fans everywhere.
What won’t bring pleasure is the fact that Houston again ran into their typical struggles that consist of missed free throws and a heavy dosage of turnovers. They shot 25-37 from the line and racked up 21 turnovers, which you just can’t afford to do against any team but especially one that’s playing some of the best defense in the association.
The biggest takeaway however is that their flight from San Francisco marked the end of their five-game road trip and they finally return home to face the Detroit Pistons, where top picks Cade Cunningham and Green will collide for the first time in their professional careers.