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Warriors edge Rockets 127-120

A Klassic Klay Effort Gets Warriors 1st Road win

Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets
A Very Bright Spot
Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

When I write the Golden State Warriors edged the Houston Rockets, it might look odd, given the 7pt win. But it was the nature of the win that really did make it close. Steph Curry made one of the most unlikely shots I’ve ever seen, and Klay Thompson made 10 3pt shots, going 10-13 from distance.

All in all this was one of the tougher losses of the season, and it took Curry, Thompson and Wiggins going 23-38 from three to edge the Rockets. I’d be surprised if Kaptain Klay Thompson has another game this good all season, his shot looked good, but he couldn’t really stay in front of anyone on defense, and neither could Draymond Green. The Warriors got their first road win, but it took all they had to get it.

In the first quarter of the game, Thompson, and Wiggins, who went 6-11 from three, made shots against poor Rockets defense. The Rockets spent the quarter disorganized, going under picks, and dropping the big back towards the rim. If you want to get beaten by the Warriors, that’s pretty much the way to do it. The MDA Rockets with James Harden went to their “Switch Everything, Always” defense primarily to counter the Warriors. (Also, to hide Harden on defense somewhat.)

The Warriors lead 40-28 after the first quarter, and one imagines Steve Kerr thought he could use his bench to overcome the Rockets. That was a mistake, because while the Warriors starting unit is possibly the best in the NBA, their bench is possibly the worst.

The Rockets went to their wrecking crew lineup with Tari Eason (19pts, 9rbs, 1st, 3stl in 23 minutes), Usman Garuba, KJ Martin, and unfortunately, Daishen Nix, who just doesn’t seem to react fast enough to be in an NBA game right now. The Rockets won that quarter 37-21 as the Rockets tightened up defense, pushed in transition, and generally looked far more athletic and explosive than the Warriors, especially their bench players.

The third quarter is famed for Golden State as one they dominated. They won it tonight, but not in dominant fashion, 36-29. The Rockets played well, but the Warriors continued to make nearly every long range shot, or get a rebound from a long carom if they missed it.

The fourth quarter was also competitive, but Rockets mistakes, and continued shooting from the Warriors foiled any comeback attempt, as Steph Curry and Klay Thompson each made typically unlikely 3pt shots to close it out. Curry’s last second 3pter might be the worst 3pt shot that isn’t a last second heave I’ve ever seen go in. He can do that, and there’s not much to done - Eric Gordon’s defense was essentially faultless.

The was honestly one of the Rockets best showings of the season. They put up 120 points, played hard, and we saw a real breakout game from Jabari Smith, who dropped 22 points (a career high) on 8-14 shooting, along with 7 board.

Smith seems to be realizing what he can, and can’t, do at this point in his NBA career. Catch and shoot, and decisive two to three dribble drives immediately after receiving a pass into a shot are good. Attempting to post, or work a defender without an advantage off the catch are bad. He’s realizing that almost no one can really challenge his shot, and he typically took good ones, within the context of the offense. It was a very encouraging game.

Alperen Sengun didn’t have a good game, as there was a thought he might not even play tonight, but with Fernando out, Smith not really a center, the Rockets needed his minutes.

Kevin Porter Jr returned tonight, and had a good game. He scored 30pts on 10-19 shooting, went 5-11 on 3pt shots, and added 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 2stl, 1blk and 2TO. The Rockets may be better without him, Green and Gordon on the court at once, but they’re definitely better with Porter. He attacked more decisively into his floater, and it worked. He still needs a better basket attack, a real go-to move, but this was an improvement.

Another good thing that happened is that Garrison Matthews didn’t play, especially with Daishen Nix. That shouldn’t ever happen again, barring a very depleted lineup. Nix only got 13 minutes, so there seems to be some recognition that he’s simply not ready to be an effective NBA player at this point. He’s only 20. It’s fine to be frustrated with his slow reaction and recognition, but maybe he needs some time in the GLeague to effectively lead an offense again, and regain confidence.

This was a game full of good signs: defensive adjustments, comprehensible rotations, minutes based more on performance. The Rockets continue to play very hard, and the talent is undeniable. If they can turn the corner into a marginally organized and competent team, they’ve going to win a lot more games. Maybe as soon as January.

Once again, the Rockets lost impersonating the Seattle SuperSonics. That is enough of that.


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