Tonight, the Warriors didn't need to wait until the third quarter to put the game away. In a scintillating eight minute stretch through the end of the second quarter, Golden State took off on the Rockets and left them in their space dust.
The Warriors flexed their defensive muscle, holding the Rockets to just 13 points in the quarter, and 30% shooting for the half. Remember, this is a team that entered the day with a 29-13 record, just one game out of second place in the West!
There was also a bit of added motivation. Having started the season 0-3 against the Warriors, including last week's 131-106 laugher in Houston, the Rockets were understandably eager to prove they could hang with the best in the NBA. But after tonight, the only thing the Rockets proved is that they want no part of the Warriors come playoff time.
Things got chippy from there as a season sweep's worth of losses started to boil over. In the third, Trevor Ariza intentionally bumped Stephen Curry on the way down court, which got an angry reaction from the usually mild-mannered superstar. Words were exchanged, so we can only speculate (and hope) that it had something to do with the Warriors not even being that good. Okay, cheap shot.
Shortly thereafter, it was Josh Smith mouthing off and earning an early shower.
The Rockets gave the Warriors a scare in the fourth quarter, as the reserves shaved the lead all the way down to single digits in "garbage time." With Harden and Howard on the bench, the defense tightened up quite a bit, keeping the Warriors in check as they chipped away at the lead throughout the fourth. Although seeing the Warriors win by 30 (as they appeared to be on pace for) is fun, seeing a good team like the Rockets essentially quit in the third quarter was just sad. The reserves were nearly able to make a game of it, but the game itself was downright ugly if you're a fan of competitive basketball.
Bonus bites: the Warriors continue to defend James Harden well. Every time he puts his shoulder down, euro steps and stomps into the painted area, you will see Dubs defenders like Klay Thompson backpedaling with hands directly up, watching for the ball to be exposed for a block or a steal. Harden takes and makes more free throws than anyone in the sport because he seeks out such contact, and the Warriors do a terrific job of denying the contact. Unfortunately, referees have yet to take notice. Harden is still getting two or three "WTF!" shooting fouls every game, at least. Tonight was especially tough, with Harden taking a whopping 16 free throws.
Speaking of free throws, the Rockets were superb once again at the charity stripe. They finished 26-of-31 from the line, a number which understates how difficult it is to score against the Warriors defense. McAdoo was the only active player not to see action tonight, as the Rockets reserves robbed the Warriors of precious garbage time.
Speaking of reserves, as badly as the Warriors starters outplayed the Rockets starters, the benches were the reverse. Andre Iguodala (+3) was the only reserve to register a non-negative plus-minus. Steve Kerr continued his juggling act: this time it was Justin Holiday and Marreese Speights who remained largely inactive for no reason. They logged just 13 minutes, which allowed Leandro Barbosa and David Lee to get extended-ish minutes. If the Warriors continue at this rate, not only will they be the best team in the playoffs-they'll also be the deepest and healthiest.
With the win, the Warriors move up to a University-of-Kentucky-ian 34-6 on the season. They also set a new franchise record with their 17th consecutive home win. The Dubs welcome their neighbors to the north on Friday, as Boogie Cousins and the Sacramento Kings visit Oracle. Brag about our first sweep of Houston in 41 years in the comments section below.