Steph Curry really didn’t want to go to overtime again. One night after he played 44 minutes in a loss to the Pacers, Curry hit a stepback jumper at the buzzer to give the Golden State Warriors a 105-103 win over the Houston Rockets. Curry struggled early, but caught fire in the second half, scoring 16 of his team-high 22 points. After Houston missed two shots at the other end and Otto Porter Jr corralled the rebound, there was no doubt who was getting the ball. Curry took the inbounds pass, got Kevin Porter Jr. leaning with a hard dribble, and then stepped back to calmly sink the bucket that made the not-so-full Chase Center go crazy.
It didn’t look like the Warriors would be close enough for a buzzer-beater early. They trailed by 11 points at halftime, and as much as 14 points in the third quarter. In fact, they went down 101-92 with just under five minutes left after Garrison Mathews was flagrantly fouled on a made three-pointer - his second four-point play of the game - and the Rockets got a dunk on the subsequent inbounds, a seemingly back-breaking six-point possession. But Houston would only score once more the rest of the way, bricking five three-pointers down the stretch. Who would have guessed that the Houston Rockets would miss a bunch of threes against the Warriors? We fully expect Houston’s upcoming referee audit to declare that they actually did win last night’s contest.
Jordan Poole had 20 points and Andrew Wiggins had 17, on nearly identical shooting lines of 7-15 and 7-16 respectively. Kevon Looney grabbed 12 rebounds while jumping about 12 feet off the ground, total, in a season-high 32 minutes. Suddenly, he’s the most durable player on the team! Otto Porter Junior had 13 points and 7 rebounds in the Battle of the Porter Juniors, nearly matching Kevin Porter Junior, who had 17 points, 8 assists, 4 steals, and just one turnover for Houston.
Christian Wood terrorized the Warriors down low and from three-point range, scoring 19 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. But he disappeared down the stretch, scoring only two points in the game’s final 20 minutes. Kenyon Martin Jr. (Mini K-Mart?) scored 14 points and Garrison Mathews had 12, 8 of them coming on four-point plays. Mathews both committed and drew flagrant fouls in this game, and after Damion Lee smacked him, played with a cotton ball in his nose in the first half.
Garrison Mathews catch & shoot off the screen 3 point shot! January 22, 2022 pic.twitter.com/P5cgVIWz2t— NBA BASKETBALL (@DejoseMark) January 22, 2022
Also in the first half, the Warriors couldn’t shoot, and they kept turning the ball over. Curry started the game ice-cold, missing all five of his first quarter shots but dishing three assists. He looked a lot like a guy who played 44 minutes the night before. Wiggins kept the team afloat with eight points, including a triple off a sweet OPJ kickout.
Wiggs showin' off the range #AndrewWiggins || #NBAAllStar pic.twitter.com/N6UyY08F2O— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) January 22, 2022
Things got uglier in the second quarter, mainly due to eight Warriors turnovers, leading to eight easy Houston points, and it would have been ten if Jae’Sean Tate hadn’t goaltended on a fast break putback. The Dubs turned it over on three straight possessions near the end of the quarter and when OPJ missed a three, it looked like Houston, up 15, could run away with the game. But then Looney, heroically doing more dirty work than Norm MacDonald and Steely Dan combined, snagged an offensive rebound, and Curry found Poole for a three. Thirty seconds later, Curry hit his first triple of the game and they went into the half down just 11.
SC for three#StephenCurry || #NBAAllStar pic.twitter.com/40iX2SolSS— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) January 22, 2022
How sloppy did things get at the Chase Center? Red Panda, the legendary halftime entertainer, dropped bowls at two different times during her act. Not sure what was more shocking - Steph Curry not making a field goal until the final minute of the half, or Red Panda dropping six bowls. Look, even the all-time greats can lose their accuracy sometimes!
Golden State cut the lead to seven coming into the third, but then the turnovers returned. A Curry turnover led to a Wood three, a Poole turnover led to a Wood dunk, and then Wood stole the ball from OPJ, leading to two free throws and a 14-point lead. Then the Warriors went to their money man: Kevon Looney.
After Looney dunked, he out-fought Wood for an offensive rebound, and Wood was so frustrated he drew a technical foul. Is it a coincidence that opposing centers keep getting T’d up after battling with Hurricane Kevon? And making the technical free throw clearly got Curry going. He had eight points in a 13-0 Warriors run that brought them within a point. Who fouled Curry on a three-pointer? A steamed Christian Wood, who also lost the ball to Curry two minutes later.
Near the end of the quarter, Mathews hit Jordan Poole in the head on a drive, and despite Bob Fitzgerald’s whining that the officials NEVER reviewed contact on Poole, the officials reviewed the contact and awarded a flagrant foul. Poole sunk the free throws, then hit a jumper through contact for an and-one. That was a highly impressive five-point play, though no one could have anticipated the six-pointer lurking in the fourth. It felt like the Warriors might have snapped out of their funk, since dominating the third quarter is their trademark.
What else helped? Letting Steph Curry iso. Especially with the recent shooting woes, the Warriors’ ball movement-heavy offense has been breaking down. And when Curry faces a team where no player can guard him one-on-one, he doesn’t need anything fancy. He dropped the ball Damion Lee for an easy layup in the fourth where the whole play was “let Steph iso,” and it was still beautiful basketball. Steve Kerr might want more passing, but when Steph is cooking, in the words of Damion Lee, “Smile m#$%@!”
Just before Curry’s game-winner, the Rockets missed two three-pointers. After the first, Jalen Green got the rebound and then in a bizarre play, lost his footing and stumbled forward with the ball. With the crowd shouting for a traveling call, one referee called a foul, while the other ruled the Rockets had called time before anything happened. The Rockets ran down the shot clock, and Mathews missed a very long three-pointer.
In a matchup of lottery picks, No. 7 Jonathan Kuminga outscored No. 2 Jalen Green, 7-3. Kuminga guarded his old G League Ignite teammate periodically, part of a Warriors defensive effort that led Green to an 0-11 shooting night. Nemanja Bjelica did an impressive job hounding Alperen Sengun on the defensive end as well, harassing him into two turnovers and blocking one of his shots. Speaking of blocks, Poole had a huge block on Josh Christopher where he slammed his hand into the backboard (it looked painful, but the hand felt good enough to make his last two jumpers), and Looney sent Kevin Porter Jr. away with two minutes to go to keep the Rockets at bay.
Jordan Poole paid a price for his huge block of Josh Christopher at the rim. JP's R hand hit the backboard pretty hard. He's been shaking it and rubbing it ever since.— Monte Poole (@MontePooleNBCS) January 22, 2022
The Warriors honored former president Rick Welts before the game. He was added to their “Walk of Fame,” joining At Attles, Chris Mullin, Wilt Chamberlain and other Warriors greats. It seems weird to add Welts before Don Nelson, but Welts did help build the arena where the Walk of Fame resides, and besides, it was his 69th birthday! Rick Barry also attended, which is why Curry attempted two underhand threes during his pre-game warmups.
But the biggest ovation came when the team recognized Rickey Henderson sitting courtside. He got a (mostly) standing ovation, waved to the crowd, and looked like he could still steal about twenty bases a season. Hopefully he took a photo with Barry and Gary Payton II, the three greatest steal artists in Oakland history. Speaking of Payton, he and Damion Lee were both very solid off the bench, keeping the Dubs afloat with matching 8-point, 4-5 lines.
The Warriors welcome the Utah Jazz, a team that’s struggling even more than them in 2022, on Sunday night. Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala will both be returning to the rotation, and we shall see if Rudy Gobert can deal with the Western Conference’s new low post bully, Kevon Looney.