Warriors put Rockets out of their misery

At least it was a quick death.

The Warriors were not concerned with who was or was not playing in their 114-81 embarrassing of the Houston Rockets.

The champs shot close to 55 percent from the field and hit 11 of their 19 three point attempts. They had 30 assists to only 9 turnovers. I’m not sure there has ever been a team that can so brutally destroy a team when they smell blood in the water.

Golden State outscored Houston 37-20 in the first quarter, and the lead quickly jumped to 30 points in the second half which is where it stayed. What we watched tonight was a team hungry to prove they can compete for a title no matter who was their starting point guard. On the other side of the court was a team that looked relieved that their long nightmare of a season was finally coming to an end.

Shaun Livingston found himself wide open under the basket for easy layups. Livingston scored 16 points in 28 minutes, and only turned the ball over once. His play has been exactly what the Warriors have needed out of him in Curry’s absence. Both Livingston and Kerr seem to know exactly what is needed out of the veteran for this offense to keep firing on all cylinders.

In what seems like a preview for what we will see in the next series, Draymond Green was running the offense a majority of the time he was on the the court. Green almost had a triple double scoring 15 points, grabbing 9 rebounds and dishing out 8 assists tonight. He finished the game with a plus/minus of +32 in the 31 minutes he was on the court, a number will probably not be reached again for a long, long while.

The player who looked like he was having the most fun out there tonight was Klay Thompson. The lone splash brother had the hot hand, shooting 7-11 from three in a 27 point in 29 minute performance. There was no better time to get Thompson’s confidence up than tonight, and Klay was shooting – and making – shots from ranges that are usually reserved for Steph.

James harden was the only Rockets player to hit a field goal in the period, scoring. Harden scored 25 points on 8-12 attempts in what was the only highlight of Houston’s first half. He finished the game with 35 points on 12-23 shooting.

In what was an odd move that could easily be seen as a FU from Rockets Coach, JB Bickerstaff to Dwight Howard, the Houston big man played over 45 minutes in the blow out. Howard was 3-13 from the field, scoring just 8 points even though he played much of the second half against the likes of Anderson Verejao and Maurice Speights.

I’m not a huge fan of criticizing head coaches in the NBA, but Bickerstaff is not up to the task of coaching an professional team. He has no control over what happens on the court, and his rotations have been horrible since he took over the team. An argument could be made that no coach would have been capable of effectively leading this group of players, but Bickerstaff failed at the basic player management, and play calling that you would expect out of a top level high school coach.

Much like the Clippers, I see the Rockets completely blowing up this team in the offseason. There is about a zero percent chance that Dwight Howard remains on this team. He and James Harden have the on court chemistry of Donald Trump and the Republican establishment.

The obvious move is to get Dwight Howard out of town as soon as possible, but given the way he has been maligned over the last few years I pity the team that thinks they can get real value of the past-his-prime center.

For a team that supposed to be built around James Harden, and his ability to drive the lane and get people wide open looks from beyond the arch, there sure weren’t a lot of players who could make standing threes on this roster. I think Harden is still very much a top five player in this league, and if he has the right players around him I think he could be the best player on a championship squad. His flaws, especially on defense are glaring, but surround him with smart defenders who can also hit open shots and you have the makings of a title team – IF – and I can’t make that if any more pronounced, Harden is as motivated as he was in last years MVP caliber season.

Up next for the Warriors will either be the Portland Trail Blazers or the Los Angeles Clippers. Despite putting up a good fight for a half the mash unit that are the Clips went down to the Blazers 108-98 to go up 3-2 in the series. The dup of Lillard and McCollum scored 49 points. Mason Plumlee added 13 points and 15 rebounds to the win.

Portland will have a shot at closing out the series at home Friday Night and if they do so will get their crack at the defending champions. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but Golden State did beat Portland five out of the seven times they played in the regular season. I would love to see how well Klay and Iggy could match up with Lillard and McCollum, but that is a conversation for another day.

Tonight the champions did what you would expect out of a 73-9 team, they delivered a knock out punch to a team that visibly teetering on the brink. Even without Steph on the court their offense was a marvel to behold tonight. Even if Houston was willing to dig in their heels and try to take one more game of the Warriors, I don’t think it would have made much of a difference. The Rockets laziness was defeated play was the difference of this being a 15 point win for Golden State or the 33 embarrassment it ended up being.

I’m sure there will not be a whole lot of celebration in the warriors locker room tonight. They know that the real challenge begins next week. This is a team that looks ready to stare down any foe that is put in front of them.

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Rockets best Curry-less Warriors

We did it everybody!

It took the MVP sitting out of a road game, but we finally got a fun game out of round one of the NBA Playoffs!

James Harden played one of his best games of the season, and hit a beautiful step back jumper to give the Rockets a one point lead with seconds to play.

On the ensuing inbound Draymond Green fumbled a pass off of his leg and the Rockets took Game 3, 97-96.

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The Beard broke out all of his old tricks last night, driving into the lane with full intentions of either getting fouled or making a pass to wide open teammate.  Harden finished the night with 35 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists. He got to the free throw line five times and made 9-11 shots from the stripe.

Dwight Howard had a dominant first half for the Rockets, getting himself into great post up position on many possessions, and was a force coming of pick-and-rolls. There are moments when Howard still looks like the All World Center that he was five years ago, but he spent much of the second half as an afterthought on offense, and had to be pulled when Golden State started to play Hack-A-Howard late in the game.

The Warriors were struggling to come up with consistent offense, Klay Thompson and Green both struggled with their games. Klay only shot 7-20 from the field and Green finished the game with 7 turnovers and struggled with his shot as well.

Maurice Speights was the best player for Golden State Thursday night, his 22 points were what kept the champs in the game. He was even able to extend past his regular mid-game range, making three of six three point attempts.

Ian Clark also made some great plays down the stretch for the Warriors, Steve Kerr has shown a lot of faith in the rookie this year and it paid dividends last night. Clark hit a couple of layups late in the contest, including one that put Golden State up one point before Harden’s heroics.

It took every last bit of fight for the Rockets to hold of the Warriors. To be honest, I didn’t think this team had that much fight left in them. When Harden and Howard are both playing hard this is still a tough out for any team in the league.

The question now becomes how bad is Curry’s ankle really bothering him? It has been an easy decision to keep Steph out of these games given the Warriors have been cruising to wins, but now that Houston has a win will Steve Kerr push to have the MVP back in game four?

My hunch is that Curry will sit in the next game if he is still feeling considerable pain, and is not able to play at close to 100%. The Warriors had an off game in almost every metric and were still one shot away from winning Game Three. There’s no need for the World Champs to put there best player at risk.


OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER 131 – DALLAS MAVERICKS 102

All of the usual suspects showed up for the Thunder last night. Westbrook started the game off by getting his teammates involved (15 AST) and became more of a scorer late (26 PTS). Durant came out shooting early and often, and did a good job of getting to the foul line. He finished the night with 34 points, with nine points coming from the FT line. The Thunder got excellent production from their role players; with Ibaka, Kanter and Waiters combining for 56 points.

TORONTO RAPTORS 101 – INDIANA PACERS 85

With the minutes restriction lifted off of DeMare Carroll, the Raptors super utility man flourished. Carroll played stifling defense on Paul George, holding the All Star to only 6-19 shooting. He was also a factor on offense, scoring 17 points in 35 minutes. DeMar DeRozan had a a comeback game of sorts, scoring 21 points, getting to the foul line plenty and playing more like his regular self. Kyle Lowry had another strong game scoring 21 points and dishing out 8 assists. I’m becoming more and more of a fan of Corey Joseph whose play off the bench for Toronto has been outstanding, he finished last night with 10 points, 4 assists, and a steal in 24 solid minutes of play.