Since the Golden State Warriors’ 106-104 victory over conference irritant Houston Rockets was considered to be a “statement game”, the statement was more for the Warriors themselves as opposed to making a statement to the Rockets or anyone else.
And the statement had to be the following: “We haven’t been playing championship ball lately. We’ve been undisciplined and unfocused. We can’t finish the rest of the season this way and expect to three-peat and we sure as hell don’t want to be swept twice this year. Let’s lock in and try to stay that way. We know we are capable of playing at the level that we are accustomed to. So let’s play like it.”
Locking in is exactly what the Warriors did from the opening tip. Without Kevin Durant, the trio of Klay Thompson, Demarcus Cousins and Stephen Curry combined for 81 of the Dub’s 106 points. Here are a few takeaways from tonight’s victory.
Setting the tone on defense
All day leading up to opening tip, I have been advocating that Warriors coach Steve Kerr should start Andre Igoudala instead of Alfonzo McKinnie and the main reasons why is because it gives a jolt to a struggling Warriors’ defense. While the Warriors’ issues on defense aren't only at the hands of Cousins, his struggles defending the pick and roll shouldn’t be overlooked. The presence of Iguodala steadied the Warriors on defense by helping with double teams and by picking up switches.
Kevon Looney continues to impress with his defense on James Harden. It’s not a coincidence that Looney played Harden well on the perimeter tonight. Looney never bites on Harden’s pump fakes and guards his tendencies. He sells out to sit on Harden’s left especially when he attempts to stepback and it was solid tonight.
In the first quarter, after Houston took a 9-2 run to tie the game at 15, the Warriors jacked the lead up again by going on a 14-2 run. Why? Because defense catalyzes the offense.
Boogie’s Best Game
In 20 games this season, “The DeMarcus Cousins” experience have had all kinds of peaks and valleys. Tonight, was Cousins’ peak of peaks so far in the season. Cousins scored a season high 27 points on 11 of 16 shooting, grabbed 8 boards and dished 7 assists. Not to mention that he didn't struggle mightily on defense as expected. What clicked tonight is that Cousins kept it simple. He didn't try to force anything offensively. He was a facilitator out of the post as well. Solid all around effort tonight.
Tonight, the Dubs out rebound the Rockets 44-31. Outscored them in second chance points 15-6 and in transition. For most of the season, the Warriors have struggled with rebounding and giving up second chance points without converting any on their end. The little things such as the second chance points, scraping for the rebound, fighting for 50-50 balls are oftentimes taken for granted. Against the Rockets, the Warriors made it their priority to clean the glass. To get those extra opportunities and convert them. Not to mention, being solid in transition on both sides of the ball. Sometimes, it’s the small details that matters, and against teams such as Houston, OKC, etc , those details are the difference between winning and losing.