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Monday February 13, 2012 0:10 AM

Not So Golden Feeling

Rockets' win streak comes to an end as Warriors win 106-97

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com




SAN FRANCISCO, CA - The stage was set. The script had that comfortably familiar feel.

For three straight games, the Rockets had flirted with danger in hostile territory, only to overcome the obstacles before them and emerge victorious thanks to some lockdown defense and sparkling play from the team’s rapidly-improving second unit. So when Houston found itself in a similar predicament Sunday night against the Warriors, there was an undeniable inclination to believe the club could produce yet another encore performance.

Just as undeniable, however, was the feeling that this time was different. The Rockets had seemed sluggish and a step slow throughout most of the contest, showing little of the vim and vigor that had catapulted them past Phoenix, Portland and Denver. The turnovers were just too prevalent (Houston finished with 19 in all) and so too were the defensive breakdowns.

Still, when the Rockets needed less than 90 seconds to cut a 14-point fourth quarter deficit in half, hope remained. This was, after all, a Golden State team not exactly renowned for its defense and a club that never met a heat check it didn’t like – occasionally even after all signs of warmth had long since been extinguished from the building.

But all the issues that had initially led the Rockets into this particular quagmire rose up and snagged them one final time – another wide-open jumper here, another fumbled ball there – allowing the Warriors to put an end to Houston’s win streak and escape with a 106-97 victory.

“We had plenty of opportunities in that game,” lamented Rockets Head Coach Kevin McHale. “We just weren’t sharp. It just seemed to me like the whole night it was as if we were playing in eight inches of water. We just couldn’t get going.”

Indeed, even despite taking an early lead, the Rockets never did seem as if they were in complete control. They were loose with the ball, turning it over seven times in the first quarter alone, and allowing far too many wide-open 3s to one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the NBA. Nonetheless, Houston found itself up 29-23 after the first quarter, perhaps providing a false sense of security that it could escape with another road win without playing its best ball.

Any such feelings, however, were quickly swept aside during an ugly second period that saw Golden State punish the Rockets appropriately for their sins this time around. While the Warriors continued to drain shots from downtown with apparent ease, Houston was unable to locate any sort of offensive rhythm, resulting in a four-point halftime deficit that certainly could have been far worse.

After the break, the Rockets emerged with a more aggressive mindset and subsequently found their reward in the form of free throws. Houston went to the line a whopping 14 times in the period and that, combined with some hot shooting of their own from beyond the arc, allowed them to creep to within two points of the Warriors heading into the final frame. Kevin Martin, in particular, found his groove, emerging from a four-game shooting slump to score 13 of his team-high 28 points in the quarter.

But the Rockets were unable to gain more ground due to their inability to generate stops on the other end. Golden State shot 57 percent in the quarter, with Monta Ellis repeatedly torching Houston from all areas of the floor.

And the fourth quarter just brought more of the same, as Ellis continued to work his magic en route to finishing with 33 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds. It was his 3-pointer at the 5:18 mark of the period that put a stop to Houston’s 7-0 run and he was also the one responsible for delivering the game’s final dagger: a midrange jumper that boosted the Warrior’s lead back to eight after Kyle Lowry had unleashed a 30-foot bomb to give Houston at least a glimmer of hope that a miracle comeback might be in the offing.

“I think we fought hard,” said Patrick Patterson after the game. “The first three quarters were not the usual basketball that we’d been playing. We tried to pick it up in the fourth quarter but we didn’t hit shots, we didn’t stop them on the defensive end when we needed to and, all in all they just played a better game than we did.

“There were a bunch of incidents where it seemed like we got in their way, they’d pick up their dribble, throw up a heave and hit it. Or there were situations where they’d get to the basket and we just weren’t helping each other out. We weren’t in the right position at the right time – that happened a bunch of times tonight. It just seemed like everything that could’ve gone wrong did go wrong.”

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

We had plenty of opportunities in that game. We just weren’t sharp. We’ve been sharper prior to that, we just weren’t sharp tonight on either side of the ball.

(need to attack more offensively?): We got to the line 30-some times but there really aren’t any shot blockers in there so you need to try to attack them. But, again, it came down to the simple fact that they were 13-24 from the 3-point line – they did a nice job there – and we had 19 turnovers. That combination is going to put you in a hard position to win basketball games. Again, we had a period there where I didn’t think we had ball movement, body movement that we needed in the second quarter. We’d moved the last few games in the right direction of really cutting hard and it just seemed to me like the whole night it was as if we were playing in eight inches of water. We just couldn’t get going.

(how much does this put at stake for next game against Memphis?): We’ve got to go play well, bottom line. Memphis is a tough place to win, they have a very physical team and we’re going to have to shore up some stuff. But win or lose tonight, our most important game is the next one against Memphis.

PATRICK PATTERSON

The games that we were playing previously we had good bounce; even though we gave up leads in the third quarter we still felt pretty confident coming into this game. We knew they had shooters, we knew we had to get back in transition, we knew what to do, but it just seemed like out there nothing was going our way. Couple times I recall loose ball situations where we were fighting for the ball after making a great play on the defensive end and we couldn’t come up with the rebound, they snapped the ball out to the perimeter and a guy knocks it down. It just seemed like everything that could’ve gone wrong did go wrong.

I think we fought hard. The first three quarters were not the usual basketball that we’d been playing. We tried to pick it up in the fourth quarter but we didn’t hit shots, we didn’t stop them on the defensive end when we needed to and, all in all they just played a better game than we did.

There were a bunch of incidents where it seemed like we got in their way, they’d pick up their dribble, throw up a heave and hit it. Or there were situations where they’d get to the basket and we just weren’t helping each other out. We weren’t in the right position at the right time – that happened a bunch of times tonight.

CHANDLER PARSONS

ON TONIGHT’S RESULT: “We have been playing well. We just have got to keep learning and keep meshing together as a team. We have to limit our turnovers. Tonight we turned the ball over way too much. We gave them way too many open threes which hurt us. We beat ourselves. We missed nine free throws. We turned the ball over something like 13 or 19 times, something ridiculous. We just have got to continue to get better and execute our offense and get the best shot out of every possession.”

ON KLAY THOMPSON:

“I saw him all summer long. We had multiple workouts together and he can really shoot the ball. With his size, playing the two he creates a mismatch and can shoot right over a lot of smaller two guards. He’s a heck of scorer. He can shoot the ball, he’s got length, and he’s got that great first step. He’s a great player and a great pick up for them.”

WARRIORS COACH MARK JACKSON

ON THE SECOND QUARTER DEFENSIVE EFFORT:

“We did a great job of bouncing back. We gave up 29 points in the first quarter, turned the basketball over, allowed them to get it going in transition and we missed assignments. But I thought our guys did a great job of battling, competing and then regrouping once things were not going our way – second quarter was crucial for us. Just a great job of bouncing back against a team that has been playing well and they have been working extremely hard.”

ON KLAY THOMPSON’S DEVELOPMENT:

“I watched him during a workout before the draft and he was by far the best player. The thing I love about him is nothing bothers him, it’s absolutely funny – he doesn’t care. He’s a great shooter, but he’s a big time competitor. Underrated defender, underrated defender and it’s scary to think just how good he’s going to be.”

ON MONTA ELLIS AND STEPHEN CURRY:

“They’re a heck of a tandem. I think what they are doing right now is playing off of one another. They are realizing who has the hot hand and at all times they have been unselfish. From day one those guys look to make plays for one another – almost too much. They’re a talented tandem and when they are clicking they are as good as it gets in this league.”

WARRIORS F DAVID LEE

ON PLAYING GOOD DEFENSIVELY:

“Our last two games here we have found our stride. We’ve had times in the first half where we had done a great job. Tonight we gave up a lot of points in the first quarter but at some point of the game it comes down to locking down on defense. The last two games we’ve done a great job in the second half of doing that and making a run.”

ON LIVING BY THE THREE POINT SHOT:

“We’ve also been attacking the basket. We do have great three point shooters. With guys like Stephen (Curry), Dorell (Wright), Klay (Thompson) and Monta (Ellis), it’s not like we don’t have guys who are not used to hitting them. We have guys capable of hitting those shots. The most important thing is we’re not settling for contested ones. We are taking wide open shots and I trust those guys to hit those shots.”

WARRIORS G MONTA ELLIS

ON BEING ON A ROLE OFFESNIVELY:

“It just feels good. Shots are going in. Teammates are finding me and just making plays.”

ON PLAYING GOOD DEFENSIVELY AS A TEAM:

“Really we are just covering each other’s back, scrapping and intensity. We are ready to turn this around. I think right now it’s a great opportunity for us. We are trying to get back to .500 before we get to the All-Star break and put ourselves in a great position.”

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