It’s been a long time since the Golden State Warriors were rivals with the James Harden-era Houston Rockets. The Rockets have since hit the reboot button, and are one of the worst teams in the NBA — albeit one with a bevy of young, exciting, but raw prospects.
They’re rivals no more, but after three matchups it’s become abundantly clear that the Rockets know how to play the Dubs close. But, as is so often the case in the NBA, talent usually wins out.
Especially when that talent is Steph Curry.
Houston showed their ability to play Golden State tough back in early November in a game the Warriors had to grind out. And Houston showed it again a week and a half ago, when the Dubs needed a Curry buzzer-beater to avoid overtime. And they showed it again on Monday night, overcoming a 15-point second half deficit to make things very interesting in the fourth quarter.
But then Curry happened.
Curry was already having a quality, efficient game when the final frame rolled around. He played the facilitator early, setting up his teammates as the Dubs jumped out to a 10-lead. Along with Andrew Wiggins, he played the role of scorer in the second quarter as Golden State regained the lead that Houston had stolen, and pushed it to 14 points. And he had some key plays in the third quarter as the Warriors withstood a second Rockets comeback and stretched the lead to 15.
But when the fourth quarter came around, the Warriors needed even more. Houston was gritty, determined, and, already bound for the lottery, had absolutely nothing left to lose. The lead quickly started evaporating, and as it did, Curry started shouldering more and more of the load.
There were step back jumpers. There were dribble moves straight out of an And1 mixtape, with finishes at the rim. There were relocation threes and pull-up threes, some from very, very deep.
He played so well that Steve Kerr had no choice but to quiet the angry Twitter mobs and let his superstar play the entire fourth quarter — even with the game representing the front half of a road back-to-back.
Eventually, in the final minutes, Curry’s flurry provided the death blow to the Rockets, and they became visibly deflated. From there, the Dubs built the lead back to double digits, and did a little window dressing that won’t accurately reflect how close the game was, winning 122-108.
Curry finished the magical quarter with 21 points, the highest total of his career for a fourth quarter. That gave him 40 points in the game on 13-for-23 shooting, including 7-for-14 from deep (he also had 9 assists against just a single turnover). It was the type of performance we’ve grown accustomed to with Steph, but haven’t seen too much of this month. He simply looked like a genius out there.
So it’s safe to say it was a performance that made everyone happy.
Well, everyone outside of Houston, at least.
Wiggins had another exceptional game, notching 23 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks, while shooting 8-for-14 from the field and 3-for-6 from beyond the arc. Moses Moody had a strong night in a surprising start, making three shots from deep, despite entering the game just 5-for-34 from distance.
The victory gave the Dubs a six-game winning streak, and moved them to within three games of the Phoenix Suns for the top overall seed.
They’ll get right back to it against the San Antonio Spurs at 5:30 p.m. PT on Tuesday.