OAKLAND, CA - There was no bad blood or blowout victory. No records were under threat to be broken. The end result, however, was no different than it had been a week ago: the Rockets trumped the Warriors once again and sent yet another message to their Bay Area brethren that they have every intention of chasing them down in the standings as well.
With Chandler Parsons sparking Houston’s second half assault, Houston pulled away for a 116-107 win that was earned in a far different manner than the club’s 31-point decimation of Golden State the week before. The Rockets hit 13 fewer threes Tuesday night than they had in their NBA record-tying shooting spree last week in Houston, and also had to withstand a third quarter injury scare to James Harden who sprained his right ankle after having already entered the game with a sore left knee.
One thing that had not changed, however, was the Rockets’ ability to dissect and destroy Golden State’s defense with relentless and dogged dribble penetration. Houston’s players repeatedly maneuvered their way into the soft underbelly of the Warriors’ defense where they were able to clinically pick them apart with a seemingly endless array of blow-bys, back cuts and backdoor passes.
“It’s just reading them and taking advantage of when you see them turn their heads, making hard cuts,” said Parsons after the game. “If you cut and you’re open our guys are going to find you. We did a great job of spacing and moving the ball and when we do that and the floor’s so open, it allows us to cut like that, get offensive rebounds and do all those little things.”
To be sure, it took the Rockets awhile to get on track Tuesday night – the first half featured a bevy of fouls and sloppy play from both sides – but once they got rolling the Warriors appeared powerless to stop them. And at the center of Houston’s third quarter storm stood Parsons, whose every touch seemed golden during the game’s decisive run. The second-year swingman was a playmaking machine in the period, racking up 11 points, 5 assists, 3 boards and a steal. Indeed, for that magical 12-minute stretch, Parsons wasn’t merely making a difference – he was the difference.
“I love playing with the ball in my hands,” he said after putting the finishing touches on a near triple-double night that included 21 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds. “I think the best part of my game is being a facilitator and being a playmaker. So tonight I just tried to take what the defense gave me. Guys made shots for me and I found cutters and once you do that a couple times the guys get going and it seemed like it was easy.”
Parsons and the rest of his teammates certainly made things seem simple in the second half in spite of the fact Harden hurt his ankle when he accidentally stepped on David Lee’s foot while attempting to Eurostep his way around the Warriors’ power forward on a fast break. Replays of the incident weren’t pretty – in fact, Rockets head coach Kevin McHale described it as “nasty” – but after a short stint in the locker room, Harden surprised just about everyone by returning to game action just a few minutes later.
“It’s very tough,” Harden admitted, when asked about the injury. “I barely could walk and was limping. I’m still limping. But I kind of felt the momentum going our way at the beginning of the third quarter. We got a couple stops and our energy was picking up so I didn’t want to just shut it off. So I came out there, even though I didn’t score the ball, I just tried the make the right play and help my teammates do whatever I could to win.
“I’m just going to get the proper treatment for it and hopefully I’ll be ready to go tomorrow. My main focus is on tomorrow, getting the right treatment, icing it as much as possible and trying to get my ankle and knee ready for tomorrow’s game.”
Harden’s availability for Wednesday’s game against the Clippers will likely be determined by how his various injuries respond overnight. By the time the Rockets’ flight arrived in Los Angeles early Wednesday morning, no determination on his playing status had been made one way or the other.
This much, however, is certain: The Rockets needed a win in the worst way Tuesday night after their disappointing defeat in Sacramento, especially since a tough back-to-back with the Clippers is on deck and a date with the Oklahoma City Thunder awaits Houston immediately after the All-Star break. The degree of difficulty promises only to increase in the immediate future. But with Tuesday’s triumph – a victory that brought Houston within two games of Golden State in the Western Conference playoff standings – the Rockets sent a message, one that had nothing to do with silly tweets or playful post-game barbs: They’re coming for the Warriors. And if the past week is any indication, Golden State is going to be hard-pressed to keep them at bay.
(the baseline cuts in the fourth quarter)
They were trying to switch some things and our guys read it well. If a guy turns his head, you should cut. We had some switches where they looked at the ball, and we used some back cuts and got some baskets off it.
(on Harden’s injury)
I saw it (on the jumbotron) and it looked kind of nasty. I give him a lot of credit, man. He sucked it up and came back when we needed him.
(ON THE GAME)
“Yeah he (Chandler Parsons) did a nice job, really moved the ball. Patrick (Patterson) ran up ahead and he made a beautiful throw-ahead. Our defense clamped down a little bit. Early in the game we did not follow our defensive assignments at all. We had a lot of break downs but then we kind of got that corrected. That’s a good team; Mark (Jackson) has done a great job with them all year long. They make shots and they’re going to put pressure on you but for us, if we can just get enough stops it generates our offense. If we get a few steals thrown in there; Jeremy (Lin) has good ball-hawking skills, James comes up with balls, Chandler comes up with balls, “Los” (Carlos Delfino) has good hands. If we can get some of those, that gets us those spurts where we can go on a 6-or-8-0 run.”
(ON OMER ASIK)
“Omer (Asik) has been great for us. He’s just been huge. I have a hard time taking him out and then he yells at me every time I take him out too, in Turkish. But he’s been great; he’s been rebounding, he’s just been an anchor on our defense and just been efficient around the basket. Omer has been great all year long.”
ON THE TEAM’S OFFENSE:
“Well our offense is really a read-and-react offense and there are nights where the shots are dropping and it looks great and there are some nights that the shots aren’t dropping. But the guys moved the ball tonight. They did a good job; we drove, we kicked. If we can get ball and body movement, we become hard to guard. We scored 116 again. When we have ball and body movement we usually get 110 or more throughout the game. Because you’re going to have some dry spells in the offense but then the nice thing about having a guy like James Harden is during those dry spells James gets to the line and does some stuff to kind of keep you afloat. Then we might have a four or five minute stretch when the ball really pops, we make shots, and things really kind of blow open for us and we might get on a 16-6 run or something like that and that’s kind of how we play.”
(on the win)
It’s huge. We’ve seen what it’s like to lose one and then that turns into two, three, four, five, six, seven for us. So to be able to snap that right now against a great team that plays really, really well at home, we’re thankful for that.
(on playing back in Bay area)
It’s awesome to see everybody. I have a lot of friends and family out there and it’s my first time back where I’m actually playing non-garbage time so it’s fun.
(on sticking with offensive game plan even during rough patches)
Normally what we would have done is slowed it down and gotten bad shots but the coaches were on us tonight about keeping everything the same, keep the pace going because that’s just how we play and its easier for us when we play like that.
(on Harden injury)
I was just hoping it wasn’t bad. I saw the ankle turn. He came back out and he was a soldier tonight. He played through a lot of everything. He’s definitely banged up but we’re going to take advantage of this All-Star break and get some rest.
(on his playmaker role in the third quarter)
I love playing with the ball in my hands and I think the best part of my game is being a facilitator and being a playmaker. So tonight I just tried to take what the defense gave me. Guys made shots for me and I found cutters and once you do that a couple times the guys get going and it seemed like it was easy.
(the backdoor cuts tonight)
It’s just reading them and taking advantage of when you see them turn their heads, making hard cuts. If you cut and you’re open our guys are going to find you. We did a great job of spacing and moving the ball and when we do that and the floor’s so open, it allows us to cut like that, get offensive rebounds and do all those little things.
It’s very tough. I barely could walk and was limping. I’m still limping. But I kind of felt the momentum going our way at the beginning of the third quarter. We got a couple stops and our energy was picking up so I didn’t want to just shut it off. So I came out there, even though I didn’t score the ball, I just tried the make the right play and help my teammates do whatever I could to win.
Yeah. I’m just going to get the proper treatment for it and hopefully I’ll be ready to go tomorrow. My main focus is on tomorrow, getting the right treatment, icing it as much as possible and trying to get my ankle and knee ready for tomorrow’s game.
WARRIORS HEAD COACH MARK JACKSON
ON TONIGHT’S GAME:
“I thought for 48 minutes we did not defend like our brand. I think it’s been consistent with what we have done the last four games. There were times tonight where we really got after it and times where we were on point with rotating, rebounding and executing offensively. When you are struggling to find a rhythm, both offensively and defensively, the opposition is not going to get off the gas pedal to allow you to find a rhythm. That’s a good basketball team that can score with anybody. They put pressure on you with their ability to break you down individually, knock down shots – we got out of character in turning the ball over. A couple of missed assignments and you look up and they have a six-point cushion. Nobody is going to feel sorry for where we are right now. We have to find a way to put together 48 minutes of basketball and get out of this. It’s a challenge and I think it’s a great time for my guys to get away from this thing and get away to things that matter in life and come back with purpose.”
ON THE RECENT DEFENSIVE STRUGGLES:
“You give up 116 points, that’s not who we are. You allow a team to score 30 in the 1st and 31 in the 3rd and allow second chance opportunities, that’s not when we are. When we are at our best we are defending, rebounding, taking care of the basketball and getting back in transition. Tough loss for us, but ultimately, these are nights that will develop us. I think my team is going to develop a toughness, an edge and an appreciation for how we wound up the first half of the season 30-22. An appreciation for just how we got it done. I’ve said it before, there is not panic and we are going to be just fine. I think every team goes through tough stretches and ours is one that is new to this basketball team. We will respond.”
ON THE ALL-STAR BREAK FOR STEPHEN CURRY AND DAVID LEE
“We are a no excuse basketball team - those guys have put up a lot of minutes, but they have been very successful playing a lot of minutes also. The demand on them will be the same as everybody else. There is a reason why we lost five in a row; they played a part in it, but I think it’s a great time for them to get away from the game, get away from the demands, to recover and look forward to after the All-Star break. I’m sure those guys are physically – I put a lot of pressure on them. They’ve earned this break.”
WARRIORS CENTER ANDREW BOGUT
ON IF HE FEELS ADDED RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE TEAM’S PLAY:
“A little bit. I think we’re going to take some time and come back. One of the things we need to do right now out there is rebound and set screens. I’ll be a team guy. You have to watch the tape to know what I’m talking about, it’s one through 12. I think it’s not just one through five, and as a result we’ve been beaten.”
ON IF HE COULD BE THE VOCAL LEADER THAT RALLIES THE TEAM:
“I can try, I can definitely try. It’s hard because I haven’t been a part of so many games. Defensively, definitely I take it personally because I’m a part of our defense and a part of the team. I need to do a better job in that area.”
WARRIORS FORWARD DAVID LEE
ON THE GAME:
“I thought we continued to not play the way we need to defensively. It still wasn’t Warrior basketball. That can happen a lot on the road but it was frustrating that it happened here tonight. I’m frustrated. Part of it is the number of games we’re playing – 10 games in 14 days or something like that. I know I’m exhausted and it’s not a lack of preparation, not eating right or sleeping enough. I’m doing the things I have to do. We just have to get refreshed and reload. One of the main strengths of our team is the chemistry and the character, and that hasn’t changed. We need to keep our heads up and fight through it right now; every team goes through this during some time of the year. We’ve got to come back refreshed and ready to go.”
ON THE MOOD IN THE LOCKER ROOM AFTER THE GAME:
“It was pretty down until Coach Jackson came in and he put it into perspective. A five-game losing streak is a five-game losing streak; it’s something to be concerned about, but we need to acknowledge that change needs to happen. We have to get better at the two things that have helped us this season, and that’s defense and rebounding.”
WARRIORS GUARD STEPHEN CURRY
ON HIS PERFORMANCE:
“I had some good threes and rushed some a little bit, but I just couldn’t find a rhythm. We’ve got a break so we need to get some rest, get refocused. We have to turn up the level of intensity and focus if we’re going to take advantage post-All-Star break.”
ON MAKING FEWER 3-POINTER ATTEMPTS:
“I was covered off the dribble a lot in transition, so I didn’t have many opportunities in that regard. As for getting in the paint, tonight I had to go mid-range and keep defenses honest. I tried to read the defense the best I could throughout the game but not force it. I tried to force it one time tonight but I tried to be aggressive for most of the game.”