After the Kevin Durant-Draymond Green drama commanded so much of our collective attention over these past few days, having an actual Warriors game to watch was a welcome change. But it wasn’t just any game that was happening on Thursday night, it was a rematch of the 2018 Western Conference Finals between the Dubs and the Houston Rockets. The Warriors would be without Stephen Curry for this game, as he continues to heal from the groin injury he suffered against the Milwaukee Bucks, but it still looked to be a good opportunity for the Warriors to get a win at the Toyota Center and put much of this talk of intra-team drama behind them.
Unfortunately that would not be the case. The Rockets took the lead at the end of the first quarter and never gave it back, pulling away in the second half for the 107-86 victory.
Things grind to a halt for the Dubs
For teams that usually boast high-octane offenses, Thursday night’s game was a bit of a slog. It was one of the worst offensive performances of the season for the Warriors. They scored a paltry 86 points against the Rockets, a season-low and just the second time they’ve been kept under 100 points in the 2018-19 campaign.
The Warriors’ offense was absolutely stagnant in this game, ending the game with merely 18 assists as they frequently lapsed into the Durant-focued isolation-heavy approach that led to their falling into a 3-2 hole in the 2018 Western Conference Finals. Leaning on Durant might have been the right call in some respects. He was clearly the best offensive option for the Warriors in this game, scoring 20 points, though going 6-for-15 from the field in a more laborious performance than we’re used to seeing from Durant.
When the Warriors did get shots off, they would miss them so badly you wondered if they could even see where they were shooting or if the Rockets had changed the height or location of the baskets. The Warriors shot 42.1% from the field on Thursday night, comfortably below their season average. Outside of Durant and Kevon Looney, who gave some good bench minutes while scoring a season-high 12 points, the Warriors offense simply did not work.
Where did all the three-pointers go?
The Warriors were especially atrocious from 3-point range against the Rockets. In the entire game, the Warriors made just four 3-pointers, their fewest since a March 19th, 2018 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. The team shot just 22.2% from long distance. They did not make their first 3-pointer of the game until late in the second quarter on rookie Jacob Evans III’s first-career long-distance make.
This game was definitely one that Klay Thompson will want to forget. The Warriors’ shooting guard was ice cold, going 0-for-5 from long distance and scoring just 10 points in Thursday night’s loss. Thompson did have one highlight in the game, playing the role of rim protector and blocking a Clint Capela dunk attempt.
On Thursday night, the Warriors only attempted 18 3-pointers, their second-lowest total of the season. Our own Hugo Kitano wrote about how the Warriors need to shoot more three-pointers as they are settling too often for midrange shots and this tendency was very much on display against the Rockets. Too often in this game, the Warriors settled for two-pointers while the Rockets let fly from deep, shooting 47 3-pointers. Though the Rockets did not make a high percentage of them, the sheer volume of three-point makes was a big part of what propelled them to this comfortable win.
Not surprisingly, James Harden led the three-point barrage. Harden scored a game-high 27 points against the Warriors while going 4-for-14 from three-point range. The Rockets also got a boost off the bench from Eric Gordon. Gordon, who gave the Warriors all they could handle in last year’s Western Conference Finals, scored 17 points while shooting 3/9 from long distance.
The Rockets taking and, more importantly, making those three-point shots allowed them to overcome some cold shooting in the first quarter and get this sizable victory.
Warriors have trouble with the little things
The Warriors might have been able to overcome these shooting woes if they’d played with a little bit more energy and focus. But on Thursday night, the team looked positively lethargic, sometimes as if they were trapped in mud. The team was more than happy to lean on those isolation plays from Durant, standing around while he worked against a Rockets defense quickly collapsing on him rather than being active and moving without the ball to set up a better shot.
The Warriors paired carelessness with their lethargy, turning the ball over 17 times which resulted in 29 points for the Rockets. Green was particularly guilty of this as he finished the game with 5 turnovers. It was an all-around rough game for the Warriors forward, who didn’t score a single point and had just 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Thompson, meanwhile, gave the ball up just three times. Those turnovers occurred most often while Thompson tried to dribble and drive into the lane rather than looking for a three-point shot.
The Rockets’ ability to hustle and grab offensive rebounds, keeping offensive possessions alive, was another key factor in their win. Capela has 4 offensive rebounds against the Warriors, including 3 in the first quarter that gave the cold-shooting Rockets more opportunities to score. James Ennis III had 3 offensive rebounds of his own to go with his 19 points while Gary Clark also grabbed 3 offensive rebounds and scored 9 points coming off the bench.
Checking in on KD and Draymond
You knew the major subplot of this game was going to be how Durant and Green interacted in their first time on the court together since their heated argument in Los Angeles on Monday night. There were some promising signs during the game, from Green assisting on a couple of Durant’s buckets to Durant helping Green up and reassuring him after a turnover cost the Warriors an offensive possession.
There still seems to be this strange cloud hanging over the team and Durant was (perhaps understandably) not willing to talk about this after the game. But seeing the two on the court together again, showing that they are still good teammates if not friends at the moment, that had to be reassuring for concerned Warriors fans. Time will tell how bad the fallout is from all the drama and intrigue, but there seemed to be steps in the right direction on Thursday night in Houston.