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3 takeaways from Warriors’ escape win over Houston

© John Hefti | 2022 Jan 21

Because of a sluggish start against the lowly Rockets, the Warriors needed a 13-0 third quarter run plus a five-point possession from Jordan Poole (20 points) to enter the fourth quarter even. 

Houston and Golden State went back-and-forth from there, but a wide-open miss from Garrison Matthews on a beautiful out-of-timeout play opened the door for the Warriors with 5.1 seconds left.

Then Stephen Curry took Kevin Porter Jr. to his left off the dribble, planted for a mean step-back and drilled the game-winner as time expired. Curry was 5-for-20 at the time, but he hit the one that mattered. 

The Warriors (33-13), on the second night of a back-to-back, escaped on Curry’s back. Despite a porous defensive performance, the Warriors did just enough to win. They needed every second.

Here are three takeaways from the Warriors’ 105-103 win.

A snooze button start

You’d think coming off their worst loss of the season — an overtime clunker to the Pacers, who were on the second night of a back-to-back — the Warriors would come out with some renewed energy. You’d be wrong. 

Especially defensively, Golden State slept-walked through the first quarter. Christian Wood and Kevin Porter Jr. got whatever they wanted inside. 

One play, Wood ripped the ball baseline on the block right past Kevon Looney for a slam. Andrew Wiggins bit on an Eric Gordon head fake that led to an open corner 3, although Houston couldn’t convert it. Jonathan Kuminga, moments after checking in for the first time, got back-cut by Armani Brooks, leading to an easy dunk. 

Those plays were poor defense of course, but more so poor effort or focus (as were the multiple fouls on 3-point shooters throughout the game). 

More than anything, the Rockets were just quicker to the ball and more assertive with it. They won the hustle points.  

They made sloppy passes all quarter and then all half, when the Rockets jumped out to a 30-24 lead after one and extended it to 54-43 at halftime. 

Draymond-less defense 

The Rockets lived in the paint. Golden State’s perimeter players allowed drive after drive, and without Draymond Green to clean things up at the rim, they converted time and time again. 

Houston’s shot chart was comical. They essentially only took 3-pointers and layups. Both with hardly any Golden State resistance. It was like prime James Harden shot selection, only an entire team. 

(ESPN)

The Warriors’ defensive lapses were aplenty. It seemed like the Rockets could drive to the rim at will. 

Warriors can keep pointing to the defensive end at the postgame press conference podium, but nothing has changed since Green went out with his disc injury. For the most part, Golden State’s defense — the main reason why they got off to an NBA-best start — has been poor. 

In the last seven games the Warriors have played without Green entering Friday, their opponents are shooting 35.7% from 3, which would be eighth-worst in the league. They’re allowing more than three points per game over their season average, and went 3-4 before the win over Houston. 

The Rockets scored 54 points in the paint, plus 17 from the free-throw line. 

A weird Curry game

One night after seemingly breaking out of his slump with a brilliant 39-point performance, Curry missed nine of his first 10 shots. He had three strange turnovers, including getting pick-pocketed by Kevin Porter Jr. near half court.

At one point early in the game, he appeared to not know where he was on the court and tried a 20-foot floater. He missed a free throw in the first quarter, then another in the third. He looked fatigued from playing a season-high 44 minutes against Indiana, if not lost. 

The usually unflappable Curry appeared rattled, too. At one point in the third quarter, he kicked a Warriors chair on the sideline in frustration. 

But Curry still, somehow, poured in 10 in the third quarter. His third 3-pointer, just like his first, was a high-arcing step-back over the lanky Wood. The two-time MVP spearheaded a 13-0 Golden State run. 

When Curry got going, Poole did, too. The shooting guard’s five-point possession in the third gave GSW its first lead since early in the first quarter. 

And Curry never stopped making plays for others, dishing out 12 assists. But it seemed like every time he got open and sunk a 3, he’d force another one shortly thereafter and misfire. 

Late in the fourth, Curry airballed a wild take inside on a possession no one else touched the rock, then clanked a step-back 3 in a tie game. 

Then, with one final chance, he won it. 

 

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