Anything But Golden
HOUSTON - After playing with fire for the first two games of their home stand and escaping unscathed, the Rockets got burned in a big way Sunday night. This time there was no record-setting rally, nor was there an injury-ravaged, celler-dwelling opponent to take advantage of. By the time the Rockets finally emerged from their St. Patrick’s Day stupor, the damage had already been done. And though Houston momentarily managed to make things interesting thanks to an electrifying third quarter blitz, its first half power outage proved far too much to overcome as the Warriors laid waste to the Toyota Center denizens by romping their way to a 108-78 victory.
“Tonight was just one of those nights where we couldn’t find a rhythm at all,” lamented Houston head coach Kevin McHale. “That one was a really sorry sight to see. It was hard to watch.”
Indeed, there was nothing aesthetically pleasing about the first half from a Houston perspective as the Rockets suffered through a shooting performance that was the polar opposite of the team’s record-setting showing a month ago. That February 5 night saw the club ring up 140 points on the Warriors while Houston tied an NBA record by knocking down 23 three-pointers. But Sunday evening the only marks the Rockets were chasing were measures of offensive futility.
The early signs were ominous practically right from the opening tip. Chandler Parsons back-rimmed a soaring dunk attempt. Omer Asik followed soon after with a missed lay-in. The disease rapidly spread from there. By the time the first quarter was mercifully finished, Houston had hit just 3 of its 23 attempts from the field while scoring a mere 10 points, setting season lows for both field goal percentage and points in a quarter.
The second period was little better. In fact, it turned even worse since Golden State’s shooters – ice cold to start the contest as well – emerged from their own malaise and began knocking down everything in sight. The Rockets, meanwhile, remained in a frigid offensive state, one that eventually and inevitably took its toll on the team’s defense as well. The end result: a 54-31 halftime deficit that came attached with two more season lows for points and field goal percentage (19.6%) in a half.
“I’ve never seen us shoot like that before,” said Jeremy Lin after the game. “They did a good job but we were still getting open looks.”
Those looks finally translated into points once the third quarter began. As they did against Phoenix and Minnesota earlier this week, the Rockets came storming out of the gate showing off the sort of energy, intensity and execution that had been missing throughout much of the first two quarters. Omer Asik thwarted anything that came his way at the rim, racking up three blocks in period. Then the three-pointers finally started to fall. And Lin served as the fountainhead of it all, whipping the sell-out crowd into a frenzy with his wondrous shot-making from all over the floor. In a span of less than seven-and-a-half minutes, the Rockets rolled off a remarkable 26-8 run, closing the gap between them and Golden State to just five points. A mere two days after setting an arena record for its biggest comeback win, Houston appeared poised to perhaps top it once more.
Three consecutive triples courtesy of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson later, however, and any such dreams were summarily crushed. The Warriors’ sharpshooting backcourt worked themselves free in transition all night long and they punished the Rockets for losing track of them far more often than not. That duo combined for 55 points and 11 made treys, and they collectively squashed seemingly every comeback attempt Houston made in the second half.
Having squandered a massive opportunity to move up in the standings, the Rockets now must refocus and prepare for what is shaping up to be a monumentally important game against Utah Wednesday night. The first order of business will surely be figuring out a way to begin the contest without digging an early hole. It’s been two weeks since Houston last put together anything resembling a quality first half of basketball and the Rockets know they can’t continue to rely on their comeback abilities if they’re truly serious about punching their playoff ticket.
“If I had an answer for you I feel like we would have solved it by now,” admitted Lin when asked about his club’s recent difficulties at the start of games. “I think the starting unit has to look at ourselves. It starts with me and this next game against Utah has to be one where we’re going to do whatever it takes to get out to an early lead. We have to will our way to that.
“We didn’t do anything right tonight. It was just one of those nights. We can dwell on it or we can come back and kick the crap out of the next however-many-opponents-we-have at home. That’s what we’re planning to do.”
(On the Rockets poor starts) “We just haven't had much of an edge starting off games. We kind of come out and test the water. Off and on all year, we've had some bad starts.”
(happy with the looks team was getting in the first half?) I thought early we had some good looks. I thought we drove where we could have dished it off and they got some blocks, but Chandler missed a dunk to start the game, (Asik) missed a layup after that. We had some decent looks. We just did a very poor job of locating Thompson and Curry on the break and they leaked out and made threes on us. We made a run on them in the third, then they kind of countered it and we just couldn’t sustain it. But again, you shoot (19) percent in the first half – that’s going to be hard to overcome.
Tonight was just one of those nights where we couldn’t find a rhythm at all. That one was a really sorry sight to see. It was hard to watch.
We have 15 games left. We’ve got to be desperate. We’ve got Utah Wednesday night. We escaped a bad half the last time we played. We’ve got to come out more ready to play and we’ve got to come out with an edge. Outside of an eight-to-nine minute stretch in the third, we just couldn’t find anything.
We didn’t do anything right tonight. It was just one of those nights. We can dwell on it or we can come back and kick the crap out of the next however-many-opponents-we-have at home. That’s what we’re planning to do, that’s what we’re hoping to do. Obviously tonight was bad every which way you want to look at it, so we’re just trying to get that taste out of our mouths.
They did a good job. But to be honest, I’ve never seen us shoot like that before. They did a good job but we were still getting open looks. That’s one side of it. And just our defensive effort was pretty pathetic all the way around for all 48 minutes.
(on the starts the last four games) I don’t know. If I had an answer for you I feel like we would have solved it by now. I think the starting unit has to look at ourselves. It starts with me and this next game against Utah has to be we’re going to do whatever it takes to get out to an early lead. We have to will our way to that.
(On the frustration of the game) “It was terrible. We came out so flat. We didn't play with any energy. Our effort needs to be much better than that, especially with what’s at stake. To get beat by 30 on our home court is embarrassing. So we should feel terrible. At the end of the day it’s one loss but this one definitely stinks.”
(On why the Rockets are getting off to slow starts at the beginning of the game) “I wish I knew. On offense, I don't think we're spacing the floor as much. We are turning the ball over a lot more. On defense we are having too many breakdowns. I think every time we went on a good run, they hit a big three. It's just a combination of everything. Guys not being locked in offensively and defensively.”
(On the loss) “We lost the game in the first two quarters, the first half, that's where we lost the game.”
(On the significance of the loss with playoff ramifications) “It hurts for us definitely. Coach (McHale) gave us a day off to set up mentally and to try and prepare ourselves for the next fight. Our next game is Utah (Jazz) and they are fighting to get in the playoffs too. It's going to be a tough game.”
(On whether or not the Rockets got the shots that they wanted) “During the game I thought we had shots that we were comfortable with but we need to work on shot selection and finding open shooters and we need to work on our shots too.”
(On the loss being troubling) “A lot…they (Golden State) were able to take advantage of the situation. Tonight we were fighting for the sixth spot in the playoff race. We need to come out a little stronger especially because we are at home. We beat this team three times already and we knew that they were coming to get some revenge. They came in here, they did a great job.”
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS COACH MARK JACKSON
(On the win) “It was a great win for us, bouncing back from a disappointing loss the other night. I’m just proud of my guys, extremely proud of my guys.”
(On the game) “I thought we were great, obviously you can play the same defense and they can make shots, but at the end of the day we were alert, aware, paid attention to details, we contested shots, we got back to the paint, we rebounded. It was just a thing of beauty. We took care of the basketball. They hurt you often when you turn it over and getting it going in transition, but I’m extremely proud of my guys. Houston spreads the floor, knocked down the long ball, and then it opens up the floor. They went small, the same way they did the last time we played them and they hurt us. Tonight we made the adjustments, we had the same line up and I thought Carl (Landry) gave us very good minutes. I thought our bigs were exceptional and we did a great job on multiple effort plays. Staying at home with the shooters, Klay Thompson was absolutely outstanding, not just offensively but more importantly defensively. He defended one of the best in the business (Harden) and made him work for everything.”
(On his teams play) “I believe in my guys and I know this team is not going to panic. We are going to stay true to who we are. For example, people say why a day off yesterday? You don’t start doing things you haven’t been doing. That panic. And a day off the day before we came here, everybody was out on the floor, in there working. You just don’t see that in all my years of playing, broadcasting, and coaching. This is a special group. I’m honored to coach these guys.”
(Key to the game) “We were on a mission to just play better defense and do it for 48 minutes. Each time we played them, we got better, but we couldn’t put a full game together and we knew coming out in the third quarter that Houston was going to make a run. You have to withstand it the best you can and have good possession on the offensive end and that what we were able to do.”
(On the win) “This was a big game for us to start off the road trip with and it’s a good feeling and now we have to follow it up tomorrow and not let this win be for nothing. We knew Houston was a high scoring team and they are capable of putting up big number and if we don’t stick to the game plan and have multiple efforts. That was a mission for us to come out and we were able to force them to miss some contested jump shots.”
(On the game) “It was a huge win, coming in here on the road these are the games that count most. Not only because we’ve lost three times to these guys also coming off a bad loss and also because of the standings where both teams are right now. We got off to a good start and had a very balanced first half and in the second half they made there run and we knew they were going to make a run and our guys responded well and grinded it out at the end. Houston came out hitting shots (in the third quarter), Jeremy (Lin) hit four consecutive jumpers, as did (James) Harden and they made their run, but we kept playing the same way that got us the lead. We tried to be aggressive and Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson) hit some big shots.”
(On the Warriors back court) “It was just one of those nights where we had great looks. I think we have one of the best shooting back courts in the league, it’s easy playing off Steph (Curry) because he spaces the floor so much and he is a great playmaker as well. Everybody on the floor shares the ball so well and when we are unselfish like that it’s a thing of beauty.
(On the win) “It was huge. If we don’t take care of business tomorrow in New Orleans this means nothing. We have to get some separation and the Rockets are right on our heels. Every win from here on out is a big, big game and you have to take wins where you get them and it’s not easy. We were 0-3 against them and we really needed this one.”
The Rockets registered another sold out crowd of 18,219 for tonight’s game. Overall, the Rockets have 15 sellouts in 2012-13, which includes a sellout in five of the last six outings at Toyota Center.
Houston suffered a 108-78 (-30) setback to Golden State tonight, setting a season low in points for the Rockets and matching their largest margin of defeat. The previous scoring low was 79 points done twice (last on 1/19/13 at Minnesota). The Rockets also lost 124-94 (-30) vs. Oklahoma City (12/29/12).
The loss also equaled the biggest ever to the Warriors (-30, 95-125 on 12/23/68). In addition, the Rockets snapped a nine-game home winning streak over the Warriors (last loss: 112-95 on 12/31/07).
The Rockets went just 28-of-86 (.326) from the field tonight, which included a 9-of-35 (.257) outing from beyond the arc. Houston, which had reached double digits in 3-pointers made in a season-high seven consecutive games (3/1/13-3/15/13) coming into the night, hit a combined 48 treys on 109 attempts (.440) in first three meetings with the Warriors this season.
The Warriors had a much better night from downtown, hitting 13-of-26 (.500) attempts from long range.
Houston totaled only 31 points in the opening half on 9-of-46 (.196) from the floor, setting the team’s season lows for points in a half and field goal percentage in a half. The previous lows were 36 points in a half done three times (last: first half on 1/9/13 at New Orleans) and .300 from the field in the second half at Minnesota (1/19/13).
The Rockets scored just 10 first-quarter points on 3-of-23 (.130) shooting, setting Houston’s season lows for points in the first quarter and field goal percentage in a quarter. The previous lows were 16 points in the first quarter at Minnesota (1/19/13) and .211 from the floor (10 points) in the fourth at New Orleans (1/9/13).
James Harden posted 21 points (6-16 FG, 6-6 FT), 10 rebounds, eight assists and three steals tonight. Harden now has nine double-doubles in his career all coming this season.
Jeremy Lin also finished with 21 points (9-16 FG, 3-5 3FG) and four assists tonight, which marked his 12th 20-plus point performance of the season.
Omer Asik had 11 boards and three blocks. Asik now has 10 or more rebounds in 20 of his last 22 games.
Stephen Curry recorded a game-high 29 points (12-22 FG, 5-11 3FG), 11 assists, five rebounds, two steals and one block tonight. Curry entered this game as one of just three players in the NBA averaging at least 22 points, six assists and three rebounds on the season.
Klay Thompson netted 26 points (10-18 FG, 6-9 3FG) tonight, moving the Warriors 16-7 when Thompson scores 20-plus points (7-1 when he scores 25 or more).
Andrew Bogut notched 12 points (4-8 FG, 4-4 FT), 12 rebounds and three blocks tonight. Bogut actually recorded his first double-digit rebounding game as a Warrior with 12 boards against the Rockets at Golden State (2/12/13) and added 11 rebounds in the last meeting at Golden State (3/8/13).
David Lee added 10 points (4-13 FG) and 10 rebounds, giving a Rockets opponent at least three players with a double-double for the first time since 3/27/11 at Miami: LeBron James (33 points, 10 rebounds), Chris Bosh (31 points, 12 rebounds), Dwyane Wade (30 points, 11 rebounds).