The bad news is that the Houston Rockets still couldn’t find a way to put it together enough to win a game in which the Golden State Warriors sat their MVP in Stephen Curry. The good news is that a sweep means the Rockets get to end their season swiftly and mercifully on their home floor. The series now moves to Houston where a lovely apocalyptic flood awaits a team who are doing their best to be an even more miserable impact on the city. The city of Houston is a good place full of good people, and doesn’t deserve any of this, not the horrible embarrassment that is the Rockets, not the scorn of a nation of basketball fans, and especially not a life-threatening weather situation, which is a real and horrible thing that’s infinitely more important than basketball. We’re here to discuss this game, however, so at least we can have some scant perspective as we ready ourselves for the end of this basketball season. This is horrible, but lives aren’t at stake. It’s just a game, as miserable as it may be. Just bring it home, and let’s hold this team’s hand at the end of the line.
So James Harden didn’t shoot very well. 28 points on 19 shots seems good, but that’s because he shot 15 free throws, most of which were on fouled three pointers. He hit only 7 of those shots, and went a horrific 1-8 from deep. 11 assists good, 5 turnovers bad. He played an unsurprising 40 minutes, but has a couple days to cool his feet off in the ponds in the underpasses. James Harden is going to have to be otherworldly to extend this series, and he’s looked extremely worldly so far.
Dwight Howard is also an important player, I suppose. At this point it feels more like there’s this guy who’s wearing the same clothes as the Rockets, but isn’t actually part of the team and doesn’t really know why he’s doing this. This could probably describe the entire team. Nonetheless, these random dudes played basketball tonight. Howard was 5-7 from the field, which is fine, and had 12 points and 10 rebounds, which are ok. He also gave up 3 turnovers, which is less exciting. There was poor chemistry on display, and the issues the Rockets have faced all season long only look to be worsening under pressure. It’s only a matter of time until Dwight Howard falls out like a loose tooth, and at this point most Rockets fans seem ready to just tie the string to the doorknob. The Warriors, for their part, are all too happy to give that door a good slam.
The team couldn’t grab a defensive rebound all night, letting the Warriors grab 13 on the night, and that was after they got crushed on the offensive glass early. Midway through the first quarter, the Warriors had shot 16 times, the Rockets a mere 7. This was an eminently winnable game, however, and much of the problem was a lack of shooting ability early. In fact, this game closely resembled the early season outings, when the team would put forth an early effort, miss every shot, get badly outrebounded, then just sort of hang their heads and just jack up shots for the rest of the night. If Trevor Ariza had hit some open threes (1-5 on the night, oof) the Rockets might not have needed a big rally to close it to three points in the fourth quarter. If they hadn’t needed that rally, maybe the would have had the energy or fortitude to tough out the closing stretch.
This game simply drives home the fact that the Warriors are not only sitting on the best player in the league, but that their team is talented all the way down and has excellent gameplans on both ends of the floor. Their execution is so good that even on an iffy night like tonight, they badly outclass a Rockets team who seemed to be done even searching for a reason to fight. A win tonight may have galvanized the team. This messy loss, at the very best, didn’t help.
In predictable fashion, the bench bonklers shot well. Josh Smith, Michael Beasley and Jason Terry all had nice evenings: 5-9 from Beasley, 3-4 from deep for Smith and 3-5 on threes for Terry. These players aren’t afraid to shoot, and aren’t afraid to just play their game and not worry about the consequences. The fire might have been stamped out of the starters, but those three looked ready to make a run at it. Donatas Motiejunas was aggressive as well, looking nice early, then quickly moved to the bench to waste away. He ended up 3-10, which is terrible. In the battle to see if K.J. Mcdaniels could get minutes over Corey Brewer, the winner was nobody, as Brewer played only 10 minutes, but McDaniels played one lone minute of garbage time. Instead head coach J.B. Bickerstaff chose to go extra-small, and it mostly didn’t work. I’d suggest it might have worked better with McDaniels in the mix, since he’s good on defense and can switch onto basically anyone, but I’m not the head coach of an NBA team, so what do I know?
All I do know is that the Rockets didn’t acquit themselves well in a frankly avoidable loss. The team has a lot to think about as they fly back to soggy Houston, likely the last two games in a Rockets uniform for many of these players. The Warriors, on the other hand, only have to worry about whether it’s even worth it to activate Steph Curry for the rest of the series. This season is finally coming to an end. At least we’ll get to say goodbye at home.