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Warriors will not go undefeated after blowing lead in first game against Houston

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It was a strange night. The Warriors led for the whole game, but lost. Steph Curry battled foul trouble, Nick Young couldn’t miss, and Draymond Green strained his knee.

Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Don’t panic. Don’t even think about it.

Tuesday night began in Cleveland with Gordon Hayward’s horrific injury in his Celtics debut. The injury left anyone with a heart feeling nauseated—it defined the night. The Warriors game was next.

Before the game tipped off, the Warriors received their championship rings for obliterating the Cleveland Cavaliers in last year’s NBA Finals. Warriors co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Gruber handed players and coaches rings as if the rocks were lavish bar mitzvah gifts.

More importantly, a fresh championship banner hangs in Oracle.

Let’s face it, 2014-2015 was a totally different time in world history so we may as well commemorate the tire fire of 2016-2017 with a banner too! After months of waiting, the pregame fanfare died down and we could finally sit back and watch meaningful basketball.

Injuries, foul trouble deplete Warriors’ depth

The Warriors are the deepest team in the NBA and it showed over the first three quarters. Klay Thompson couldn’t miss in the first few minutes as the Warriors bounced out to a lead. When Stephen Curry ran into early foul trouble, Nick Young picked up the slack. He hit an unconscious 8-for-9 shots (6-for-7 from deep) and ended with a Warriors-leading 23 points.

Rookie Jordan Bell played significant minutes in his first NBA game and even was asked to guard James Harden in the first quarter. He scored an efficient 8 points in 12 minutes of play, but he’s still going to take his time to develop. He picked up four fouls including a couple silly ones. His highlight came on a pass from Draymond Green.

His lowlight also included Green.

The Warriors may have the deepest team in the NBA, but right now, they do not have a healthy or even well-conditioned team. Eleven players scored in the first half —Javale McGee (coach’s decision) and Andre Iguodala (back) were not part of said group. Omri Casspi sprained his right ankle in the final preseason game and could not go on after four minutes of play on Tuesday. At the end of the third quarter Draymond Green exited with a left ankle strain.

Despite the litany of injuries, Stephen Curry’s early foul trouble, and the wacky rotations which resulted from the foul trouble, the Warriors led 101-88 at the end of the third quarter. Let’s examine how the Warriors found themselves in the lead.

The Swag is real

Nick Young (Swaggy P to many) had a tough preseason. Steve Kerr rightfully commented on his conditioning and Young was unable to find a meaningful rhythm within any of the Warriors’ rotations. In the first half against the Rockets though, Young balled out.

He scored 20 points, 5-for-6 from long distance. On a night where Curry struggled with foul trouble and Durant turnovers plagued the team, Young’s offense reigned. During a mid-game interview with TNT, Kerr was asked about Young’s performance:

“He made like one shot in training camp. I guess he’s a gamer.” Love you, Steve.

Klay, Kevin and Steph: Nothing to worry about

Klay Thompson started off the season almost as hot as he started off the summer. He nailed his first few shots from deep and shot 4-for-7 from beyond the arc. He played 37 minutes and finished with 16 points. Thompson started the game strong, but struggled to find a groove as the game progressed. Here’s Thompson with an tricky pump-fake off a cross-court pass from Curry. When he hit this, I figured the game was over.

Kevin Durant epitomized the strange player in the strange game. In the first half, he prioritized his teammates as he didn’t score until 7:51 remained in the second quarter. Ten teammates all scored before Durant. He finished with 20 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, and an impressive 4 blocks including the one below on James Harden. While these stats indicate Durant could be feeling less individual pressure, he turned the ball over nine times—turnovers kept the Rockets in the game. Don’t worry about him though. Seriously. Don’t be ridiculous.

Steph Curry battled early foul trouble and, like Durant, struggled to score consistently in the first half. Curry ended the first half with five points and accumulated three personal fouls with 6:30 left in the half. When Steph was in the game, he looked good— playing hard defense, fighting for boards, and driving to the hoop. Unfortunately, he missed a game-winning shot on the final possession. It happens. He finished with 22 points.

Steph’s still my pick for MVP this year. If he played like this in every game for the first two weeks, he’d still be my MVP pick. It’s all good, people!

When Draymond Green left the game with a knee strain after the third quarter, the Warriors had a comfortable 13 point lead. Green nearly had a triple double, approaching his career high in assists (16) after ending the third quarter with 13. The Rockets responded by scoring 34 points and holding the Warriors to 20 in the fourth.

Houston’s lanky, fourth-quarter lineup of James Harden, Luc Mbah a Moute, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza and P.J. Tucker (sans Chris Paul) created matchup nightmares for the Warriors without Green, Casspi, and Iguodala. With the Warriors mounting injury list during the game, Green was the last strand of glue to contain Houston’s athleticism. His knee strain was the turning point and his recovery timeline remains hazy. Let’s hope he’s back soon.

Win or lose, the Rockets are a top three team

After the Warriors, you could argue the Rockets have the tightest offensive system in the league. James Harden puts defenders in a washing machine and spits them out when he wants. If he’s not the one shooting, he has six teammates who can all hit threes. On Tuesday, Rockets Coach Mike D’Antoni only played eight players, but their bench of Eric Gordon, Luc Mbah a Moute, and P.J. Tucker scored a combined 58 points.

The jury is out on how Chris Paul adjusts to the Rockets. In his Houston debut, Paul tallied 4 points, 8 rebounds, and 11 assists and was benched during crunch time due to lingering knee soreness. He deserves a few weeks to figure it all out.

The season-opening loss that ended on a buzzer beater

In the final minutes of the fourth quarter, the Warriors still looked like the eventual winners. With 1:43 left, after a series of magical passes, Patrick McCaw sunk what looked to be a corner three and the Warriors took a four point lead. Turns out, his toe was on the line, keeping the teams separated by one possession.

Houston completed their comeback when P.J. Tucker made two foul shots with 44 seconds left, giving Houston their first lead since 10:30 in the first quarter. After a Harden turnover and Rockets foul, the Warriors had the final shot, down by one with ten seconds remaining. Watch what happened next:

It’s never fun to lose on a negated buzzer-beater, a fraction of a second too late. HE HIT THE SHOT TOO! It stings, especially after dominating for a good portion of the game. Never fear! The arc of basketball domination bends towards Oakland. Kerr knows what the team needs to improve on and hopefully everyone can get healthy and conditioned over the coming days and weeks. The Dubs are still the best team in the NBA and that’s not changing anytime soon. Remember last year? It hurts losing the first one, but damn, it feels nice to win the last.

Poll

Who was the Warrior Wonder for the season opener?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Stephen Curry
    (40 votes)
  • 3%
    Klay Thompson
    (36 votes)
  • 1%
    Kevin Durant
    (16 votes)
  • 5%
    Draymond Green
    (64 votes)
  • 0%
    Zaza Pachulia
    (8 votes)
  • 0%
    Patrick McCaw
    (4 votes)
  • 4%
    Jordan Bell
    (51 votes)
  • 75%
    Nick Young
    (810 votes)
  • 0%
    Omri Casspi
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    Shaun Livingston
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Kevon Looney
    (9 votes)
  • 0%
    David West
    (3 votes)
  • 2%
    JaVale McGee
    (30 votes)
1079 votes total Vote Now