That said, this game featured two short-handed teams, as James Harden and Kevin Durant were both to miss Thursday night’s game. But even without Harden and Durant, the Warriors and Rockets put on a show. In a back-and-forth, high-scoring affair, the Warriors pulled away in the fourth quarter to earn the 124-114 victory in Houston.
Draymond’s second triple-double of the season powers the Warriors
Though outpaced in the scoring department by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who scored 29 and 28 points respectively, Draymond Green was the engine for the Warriors against the Rockets. Even without Durant in the lineup, the Warriors still featured some great offensive weapons and Green took it upon himself to get the ball to them.
Getting the ball, Green was able to see Curry’s movement and put the ball in the perfect spot so Curry could get it to knock down the three-pointer. The Green-to-Curry connection was on display later in the first quarter, this time at the bucket.
Green finished Thursday night’s game with 10 assists, playing the role once again of Warriors chief facilitator. Green also contributed on the glass, pulling down 14 rebounds with 12 coming on the defensive end. Green played good defense against the Rockets as well, picking up one of his two steals here early in the second quarter.
Great effort by Draymond to dig into the ground and leverage leg strength to enable him to jump in the air high enough and close enough to Capela to get the steal pic.twitter.com/7NmoEHFkwc— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) January 5, 2018
Green was a game-high +16 against the Rockets, which reflects how the Warriors played at their best when he was on the court and that his contributions on one end of the court were not canceled out by poor play on another.
In addition to his assists and rebounding, Green scored 17 points, making it back-to-back games with 10+ points. Green scores two here as part of an early fourth-quarter run that put the Warriors in control of the game.
It was Green’s 21st career triple-double, which gave him the Warriors franchise lead for career triple-doubles.
After the game, Green also made a great contribution in the form of a soundbite, specifically one about Rockets GM Daryl Morey and his stated obsession with beating the Warriors.
Draymond Green asked about Daryl Morey's comments about Rockets being constructed to beat Warriors: "Usually when you win a championship, everyone wants to beat you. We've won 2 in 3 years. He's a smart guy. Probably what you're supposed to do. Give him credit. Brilliant."— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 5, 2018
Iguodala, West, and Looney also played large roles
Taking Durant’s place in the lineup, Andre Iguodala scored 10 points, his first double-digit scoring game since his game against the Sacramento Kings on November 29th. Though he continues to struggle with his outside shot, Iguodala cut and drove to the basket to get his points.
Klay dishes, Andre slams. (TNT) pic.twitter.com/thBvF52uRl— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) January 5, 2018
Though there might be a point where Iguodala’s outside shooting woes officially become worrisome, there’s some time before we reach that point (and his three-point field goal percentage really didn’t start trending up until after the All-Star Break last season). But if Iguodala can score like this at the basket and continue to make smart plays when on the court (eight assists against the Rockets on Thursday night) then he’s still a valuable player.
While Iguodala has (relatively) struggled this season, David West has turned back the clock and played great basketball. In just 12 minutes, West scored 12 points while providing rim protection in the form of two blocks. West left the game early after rolling his ankle and made it clear that he had some issues with that play.
David West had his ankle wrapped in the locker room. I asked him about getting crossed up by CP3.— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) January 5, 2018
"He pushed off, man. He was mad because I blocked his shot the play before that."
While Iguodala and West were offensive help, the Warriors received some defensive help in the form of Kevon Looney. After seeing his playing time diminish with the rapid ascendance of Jordan Bell, Looney played 15 minutes, his most since December 18th against the Los Angeles Lakers, and turned in good defensive play against one of the league’s best offenses.
Kevon Looney with awesome defense on Chris Paul in the iso situation and he gets the rebound too. Impressive pic.twitter.com/Q6gceMFJ6Q— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) January 5, 2018
During the postgame interviews, head coach Steve Kerr was quick to heap praise upon the big man for his good performance.
No shock: Steve Kerr redirects his first question into praise for Kevon Looney, said he singled him out in locker room pic.twitter.com/ziolBneYGi— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 5, 2018
Even an insanely good Gerald Green performance can’t give the Rockets the win
Even though they were without Harden, the Rockets still pack a formidable offensive punch. But one expects players like Chris Paul (28 points as well as 9 assists) and Eric Gordon (30 points, including some nice finishes at the rim) to put up big numbers night in and night out. What you don’t expect is for an offensive explosion from very-recently signed Green.
Green scored 29 points, one night after scoring 27 points against the Orlando Magic. There were some lucky shots (including an absurdly lucky banked-in three-pointer) but it was still an impressive night from someone who seemed to be out of the league just a few weeks ago. Green’s three-point exploits (he made eight on Thursday night) even elicited a classic call from TNT play-by-play man Kevin Harlan.
But even with Green picking up some of the scoring slack for the absent Harden, and big man Clint Capela contributing 15 points (while showing off a nifty eurostep) and 10 rebounds, the Rockets did not have enough to get the victory.
Both Curry and Thompson go over 20 points against the Rockets
I would be remiss if I didn’t call attention to Curry and Thompson’s performances against the Rockets, with both Splash Brothers playing well with Durant missing the game. Though Curry had to contend with a very grabby Rockets defense, he was able to get open for the briefest of windows here to make the catch-and-shoot three-pointer.
Curry looked good against the Rockets, even after playing last night against the Mavericks. Thursday night was also Curry’s third game back since his ankle injury and he continues to show no sign of rust.
Thompson, against a team he has struggled against from three-point range in the past, shot 67%, making 6 long-distance shots which tied a season-high for him. It’s also his fourth-straight game with 20+ points.
Late in the game, Thompson appeared to go back-and-forth with a fan sitting near the court. After making one of his last three-pointers in the fourth quarter, Thompson even erupted in a show of emotion. After the game, the Warriors shooting guard addressed the “issue.”
The guy Klay Thompson was chirping at during the game: Just a friend pic.twitter.com/oivMJZdSat— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 5, 2018
The Rockets defense still looks to be an issue
With each team missing one of their best players, it’s tough to take a great deal from this game. However, I do think something this game showed us is that the Rockets, for all the talk of how they’re on par with the Warriors, do not have the defense to stop the Warriors’ attack. The Rockets give up around 106 points per game, but the Warriors (without one of their best offensive weapons) managed to score 124. While the Warriors shot well from the field on Thursday night, even the shots they missed were good looks that might have gone in if the ball had bounced a slightly different way.
The Rockets’ problem is not their offense and thus Harden’s return will not solve this problem (in fact, it will likely exacerbate it). The Rockets also can’t count on Green to keep up these kinds of numbers for the rest of the season. While the Rockets did score more than the Warriors usually give up, that seemed logical as they were without one of their better defensive players and rim protectors in Durant.
Though the Rockets did shoot below their season average from three-point range, the Warriors three-point defense was a big part of that. The Rockets were able to remain in the game because of scoring inside the three-point arc (perhaps easier owing to Durant’s absence) and getting to the free-throw line.
The Rockets are a very good team, even without Harden in the lineup but especially with him in it, but there still remains a gap between them and the Warriors. Thursday night’s game showed exactly what that is.
Curry and Trevor Ariza fell onto Usher, who was sitting courtside at the game. That led to an outstanding tweet by CSN Bay Area’s own Kerith Burke.
Usher, postgame: "Next thing I knew, they were all up on me, screaming."— Kerith Burke (@KerithBurke) January 5, 2018
Who is the Warrior Wonder for the win in Houston on Jan 4?
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