This was a tough one to watch, as the Golden State Warriors let one slip away from them, losing 135-134 to the Houston Rockets in an overtime thriller.
Leading by as much as 20 points, the Warriors saw the Rockets catch fire from behind the arc in the second half to help erase the offensive clinic Golden State put on in the first half.
Tip your hat off to James Harden, who continued his streak of dominance with 44 points and the go-ahead 3-pointers to both send the game into overtime and win the game. He came through in the clutch and his triple-double performance put his team over the top.
But the Warriors did themselves no favors either, coughing up the ball a total of 14 times and making a handful of critical late-game mistakes that played a large part in them losing this game.
Poor shot selection in crunch time unfortunately erased the mostly great game put forth by the team that saw Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson put up 35, 26, and 26 points respectively, and Draymond Green nearly collecting a triple-double.
Often plagued by their slow starts, the Warriors instead came out looking sharp and laser-focused, jumping out to a 70-53 lead behind a stellar shooting display where they went 63% from the field.
The team looked much more like their former selves with ball movement generating a bunch of open looks.
Thompson especially benefited from this and he continued his midseason shooting resurgence scoring a team-leading 19 points, which included a handful of triples.
KLAY WITH THE HOT HAND TONIGHT— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) January 4, 2019
BACK-TO-BACK-TO-BACK #SPLASHhttps://t.co/sab97qqtZm pic.twitter.com/Yc4PSqyeBK
Curry and Durant also got cooking early, but it was Kevon Looney with the surprise performance of the night, out-hustling Clint Capela for a number of offensive boards and a quick 9 points in the first quarter.
STEPH #SPLASH— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) January 4, 2019
But even with the offense rolling, it was the defense that made the game look like it would be an easy win as the team held Harden to 15 points on sub-30% shooting in the first half. No other Rockets player outside of Harden and Capela was proving to be a reliable scoring threat.
Unfortunately that trend got turned on its head in the second half.
Perhaps the Basketball Gods decided to finally even the score with the Rockets after condemning them to that incredible streak of 27 consecutive 3-point misses that helped cost them Game 7 of last season’s Western Conference Finals.
But Houston ended up dropping 15 second half 3-pointers that helped bring them back into a game that was looking to be one of those classic blowouts in Oracle.
Part of this was due to slow rotations and a dip in the Warrior’s defensive focus and intensity. But when Austin Rivers, who is hovering around 30% for the season, cashes in on 3 of his 5 treys, there’s nothing to do but acknowledge the Rocket’s hot hand.
But even with their hot shooting, the Warriors had plenty of opportunities to close this game out in the final minutes.
And for a veteran team that has been exceptionally good at late-game situations in the Steve Kerr era, it’s been unsettling to watch them inexplicably throw games away with poor decisions in crunch time.
With a 6-point lead and a minute to go, Durant and Curry both forced shots early in the shot clock and failed to run back on defense in a sequence that saw Capela convert the 3-point play which set the stage for Harden’s heroics.
TIE. GAME. #Rockets pic.twitter.com/TwWDtVpxQb— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) January 4, 2019
The extra period was a back-and-forth affair that unfortunately ended with Harden hitting an amazing shot to win the game.
M.V.P.— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) January 4, 2019
GAME WINNER! pic.twitter.com/nshRgCiZwX
Of course, perhaps this was just the universe rectifying the egregiously blown call by the refs on the previous possession that should’ve been a turnover by Durant instead of the potential go-ahead basket by Curry.
Ball dont lie. pic.twitter.com/Pa2p0l2GTk— James Wobden (@WorldWideWob) January 4, 2019
Pretty hilarious considering the ref was watching Durant the whole time.
But just as much as that ref will want to put that blown call behind him, surely the Warriors will be looking to do the same with this game.
The Warriors will have the chance to bounce back against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday.