The Golden State Warriors started their title defense against the Houston Rockets at Oracle Arena on Tuesday night. Despite opening a lead as big as 18 points, the Warriors would lose as the Rockets prevailed, 122-121.
Before the game, the members of last year’s championship team received their championship rings in a pregame ceremony with commissioner Adam Silver and owners Peter Guber and Joe Lacob. After the rings were distributed, the newest championship banner was unveiled.
But after the festivities and ceremonies, there was a game to be played and James Harden, Chris Paul, and the new look Houston Rockets were in town and the 2017-18 NBA season needed to begin. The Warriors were already in a tough spot before the game started as Andre Iguodala sat out due to back tightness as the Warriors headed into this matchup with Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni’s high-powered offense.
Klay Thompson would get the game started with some early three pointers (putting up 11 of his 16 points in the quarter) in addition to playing good defense on Harden (or as good of defense as you can play on an elite offensive player like Harden).
However, not everything would be going the Warriors’ way as Stephen Curry got into early foul trouble, sending him to the bench with Patrick McCaw coming in to replace him. With Curry out of the lineup, the Warriors’ offense stagnated a bit and the Rockets were able to take advantage. Houston went on a 9-2 run, particularly taking advantage of rookie Jordan Bell.
The Rockets’ run, led by Harden (who would have 11 points in the first), had the game tied with three minutes to go in the first. With their offense struggling, the Warriors received a jolt from the bench as new Warrior Nick Young would enter the game and provide a scoring spark. Young would knock down three 3-pointers in the quarter to give the Warriors offense a boost with both Curry and Kevin Durant on the bench.
Even when Nick Young is lost in the offense, he STILL gives us Swaggy pic.twitter.com/EG1fI5RgNN— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) October 18, 2017
At the end of the first, the Warriors still held the lead but only by one point.
The second quarter would see some questionable calls that would affect the flow of the game. This was perhaps not surprising given this was a game officiated by Scott Foster. Curry would pick up his third foul midway through the second quarter while P.J. Tucker received a flagrant-one foul for one on Durant that certainly did not warrant it. These calls would slow the flow of the game and keep the offenses from really getting into a rhythm like one would expect.
For the Warriors, the second quarter saw Durant begin to contribute on the offensive end.
Not positive, but I think you need to pick up KD pic.twitter.com/WDPuCvVQP9— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) October 18, 2017
Durant, who started out the game slowly, would hit this transition three-pointer and follow it with a layup to get onto the stat sheet. Durant would end up with 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists in 38 minutes of game action.
The Warriors held a 9 point lead at the half. Harden would pace the Rockets with 18 points and 6 assists at the half while Young would pace the Warriors with 20 points. Draymond Green, meanwhile, would have 8 assists at the intermission. Chris Paul, meanwhile, did not have a good start to his Rockets tenure..
The Warriors are having success going after CP3, making him defend in the post. The plan is to take away his legs for offense— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) October 18, 2017
In addition to being the target of the Warriors offense, Paul would only score 4 points and have 4 turnovers as well (though he did hand out 11 assists).
Paul’s rough game would continue in the third quarter as he would pick up an early fourth personal foul and a technical as well for arguing. Curry, who like Durant had a slow start to the game, would go on a nice five-point run in the quarter with a beautiful layup in traffic and follow that with a very Curry-esque third 3-pointer.
The Rockets would get the deficit back down to single digits, through some three point shooting from Ryan Anderson but the Warriors would stem the Rockets run with a great block of Clint Capella by Kevin Durant.
With Bell, Draymond and KD, that’s some serious rim protection pic.twitter.com/TP7Mnce7NU— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) October 18, 2017
The Warriors would extend the lead to 13 at the end of the third but there was concern among Warriors fans as Draymond Green left the game limping. Green would be diagnosed with a left knee strain and would not return the rest of the game.
The Rockets closed the gap early in the fourth, led by Chris Paul. The Rockets would get two points and a steal from Paul, a 3-pointer from Luc Mbah a Moute, and then an Eric Gordon layup to cut the lead to 6. After a Mbah a Moute layup left the Warriors with a four point lead, the Warriors would stop the Rockets run with a three-pointer from Young. Young finished with a team-high 23 points, providing an offensive spark with Curry and Durant having sub-par nights by their lofty standards. The Rockets continued to cut into the Warriors’ lead, getting it down to three points. A clear reason why, as pointed out on Twitter, was because of who wasn’t in the game.
No Draymond in a game that Iguodala doesn't play... and it shows.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) October 18, 2017
With no Green and no Iguodala, the Warriors found themselves with empty possessions and turnovers on offense (Durant finished the game with 8 turnovers, part of a frustrating night for the Finals MVP) and not making stops on defense. The Warriors tried their best to keep the Rockets at bay, with Curry taking control of the offense. Curry would score 9 of his 22 points in the fourth, including a couple of amazing shots even by Curry’s standards.
This is what is known as TALENT pic.twitter.com/w9g7kFG0SB— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) October 18, 2017
Clawing their way back from an 18-point deficit, the Rockets would take a 1 point lead on two free throws from Tucker (who finished with a +20 in his 29 minutes of game action) with 44 seconds left. The Warriors would turn it over on the ensuing possession (1 of the team’s 17 turnovers in the game) but get the rebound on a missed three-pointer by Harden. With the ball and 10 seconds left on the clock, Curry would miss a three-pointer that Shaun Livingston would rebound and get to Durant with just a few seconds left to put up a shot.
Of course the game ends like THIS pic.twitter.com/jLOKptlqf7— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) October 18, 2017
But that shot, upon further review, was still in Durant’s hand just a second after time ran out and the Rockets escaped Oracle with the one point win. Harden led all scorers with 27 points while also handing out 10 assists and grabbing 6 rebounds. Gordon would contribute 24 points and Tucker 20 points coming off the bench. Owing both to absences (Iguodala’s for the entire game or Draymond’s for the fourth quarter) and sub-par play (both Curry and Durant looked out of sync, missing shots and making turnovers), the Warriors let Houston get back into this game and steal a win.
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