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Analysis: Warriors show heart, progress in 129-112 loss to Houston Rockets

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Even though the Warriors came up short in this rematch of the 2019 Western Conference Semifinals, their young players played hard and gave Dub Nation a glimpse into what might be a promising future.

Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

After an inspiring victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night, giving the team their first regular-season win in the Chase Center, the Golden State Warriors traveled to Texas for a matchup against their opponents in the 2019 Western Conference Semifinals—the Houston Rockets. Just as it was against the Trail Blazers, it was going to be a tall order for the undermanned Warriors to keep up with the Rockets, a team with real championship aspirations (whether they should have those aspirations with a team built around James Harden and Russell Westbrook... that’s a question for another day).

But the young Warriors fought valiantly, keeping the game close for much of the first half until the Rockets’ firepower advantage became quite apparent, pulling away in the third quarter as they handed the Warriors the 129-112 loss.

Burks, Spellman provide boost off the bench

Leading the way for the Warriors was someone coming off the bench. Alec Burks scored a team-high 28 points in 31 minutes of action against the Rockets. Burks shot 10/18 from the field, going 3/8 from three-point range in the loss. Burks also pulled in 8 rebounds and finished the game with a plus/minus of +2, one of the few Warriors players to finish the game with a positive plus/minus figure.

Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets
Alec Burks came alive against the Rockets, scoring 28 points in Wednesday night’s loss.
Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

While Burks is a seasoned veteran relative to some of the very young players on the Warriors roster, he’s still a player in the early stages of his career who hasn't quite developed into as good as player as many expected he would be. With the Warriors, Burks is showing signs that he’s moving towards realizing at least part of that potential. If he can, Burks will become a true asset, either as a part of what this team looks like going forward or as a trade chip the Warriors might use later this season.

Omari Spellman is a player, much like Burks, who found himself on the Warriors after underperforming at the beginning of his career. But on Wednesday night, Spellman played like someone who belongs in the league and as a part of a solid rotation. Spellman scored points coming off the bench, going from the field. Spellman also grabbed 7 rebounds, handed out 3 assists, and grabbed 2 steals in minutes of action.

Spellman did an admirable defensive job, holding his own when he got switched onto one of the Rockets’ attacking perimeter players. If Spellman continues the progression he’s shown in his lfirst few games with the Warriors, he might establish himself as a solid big man coming off the bench for the team in the future. Holding his own against the Rockets’ players is what made us all realize Kevon Looney could be a good player, perhaps its revealing that there is something there with Spellman as well.

Rookies Paschall and Bowman continue to impress

Picking up where he left off in Monday night’s win over the Trail Blazers, Eric Paschall scored 19 points against the Rockets, going 6/15 from the field and 2/4 from three-point range. One of those baskets came on this play as Paschall took advantage of being defended by the undersized and defensively challenged Harden to not only get the basket but also earn a trip to the free-throw line.

11 of Paschall’s points came in the first half as he was instrumental to the Warriors keeping things close, even holding a six-point lead at one point in those first two quarters of action. Though it wasn’t quite as mesmerizing a performance as the one he turned in against the Trail Blazers on Monday, Paschall continues to look like a real steal for the Warriors. It remains to be seen how long the rookie from Villanova can keep this up but Paschall is probably making quite a few teams regret passing on him in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Another key to the Warriors getting off to that good start which allowed them to hang with the Rockets for much of the first half was Ky Bowman. Bowman scored 8 points in the loss, but 6 of those points came in the first quarter and all of them coming on makes from beyond the arc. Bowman’s energy and intensity, especially on defense, really stood out when he’d get on the court during Las Vegas Summer League. But early in the 2019-20 regular season, Bowman has shown that he has some offensive pop as well.

Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets
Ky Bowman’s three-point shooting in the first quarter of Wednesday night’s game helped them keep things close against the Houston Rockets.
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

While Paschall has turned the most heads in this short-handed start to the Warriors’ regular season, Bowman has quietly given them good play from the point guard position. It’s still early but Bowman might be playing himself into an actual contract with the Warriors, not just the two-way contract he currently has.

Too much Harden for Warriors to stop

The Warriors slowed Harden down for most of the first half of Wednesday night’s game, but the 2018 NBA MVP came alive late in the second quarter, spearheading an 18-6 Rockets run to end the first half that allowed them to enter halftime with an 11-point lead. Harden scored a game-high 36 points on Wednesday night while also handing out 13 assists. As well as the Warriors played for stretches of this game, not having a Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson (or a Draymond Green or even a D’Angelo Russell) who could match Harden’s offensive impact (even if Harden’s impact is largely through chicanery, but I digress) was going to make getting a victory almost impossibly difficult.

Stepping up alongside Harden for the Rockets was P.J. Tucker, who scored 22 points while going 4/8 from three-point range as well as serving as the primary defender on the Warriors’ Paschall. The Rockets also got a big contribution fro Danuel House Jr., who scored 17 points and shot 5/6 from three-point range in Wednesday night’s victory.

The Warriors did do a good job limiting the damage Westbrook inflicted, as he scored 18 points on an inefficient 8/18 shooting. But even as they held Westbrook relatively in check, the Warriors did not contain the Rockets’ other scoring options and thus left the Toyota Center with a loss.

Poor performance from Poole

While rookies Paschall and Bowman showed promise against the Rockets, Jordan Poole struggled considerably. Poole scored just 8 points and was 2/11 from the field, going from 2/8 from three-point range. It’s not surprising that a rookie will be up-and-down to begin his NBA career, but those ups and downs are very pronounced with Poole. Right now, Poole is in one of those down stretches when it seems like there’s no hope of getting back on track.

That said, while Poole struggled to make baskets, he still found ways to make plays and help his team, as one sees on this play from early in the fourth quarter.

With Curry out for three months and Green banged up as well, the Warriors need players who can start the action and set up his teammates to convert opportunities. At times against the Rockets, Poole looked like he could be that kind of player. Hopefully that’s something we’ll see more of throughout the season and in victorious efforts.