Houston Rockets 118, Golden State Warriors 112: The formula still works

Despite the injuries, the slumps, the penny-pinching, and the odorless gas-leak that is Scott Foster whistling away in some far corner of the house, the formula works. The Rockets played the completely healthy Golden State Warriors, who had only lost twice since the teams’ last match up on January 3rd, and beat them 118-112 in Oakland despite the absence of reigning MVP James Harden.

On the offensive end Houston worked to get Draymond switched on to shooters before attacking the basket on straight line drives and whipping pocket passes to rolling big men, knowing Green had to stay home and the paint was vacated. Chris Paul and Kenneth Faried, in particular, were fantastic. Paul had his best game of his season, assisting on 17 baskets, many of which were to Faried. The Manimal thrived in the power forward slot, scoring 20 points and combining with Capela and PJ Tucker to collect 35 of the Rockets’ 48 rebounds. 

Though the formula was already in place, Paul and Faried’s production answered some key questions about the match-up. Having struggled with age and injuries much of the season, Paul needed to prove that he could replicate last-years’ Conference Finals performance. Faried, who has been a huge part of the Rockets’ offense with Capela absent, had to show that he could stay on the floor against Golden State. With Paul looking as good as ever and the Manimal knocking down threes and being shockingly adequate on defense as a four, Rockets’ fans have to feel more comfortable about the roster construction than they have since before the trade deadline. 

The other big question, for the league as well as the Rockets, was whether Boogie Cousins was a game breaker. He may be for the rest of the NBA, but the Rockets remained intact. They ran him off the court on offense and used their size defensively to bother him in the paint. Cousins was 4-12 from the field with six turnovers and a game-low plus/minus of -17. Coach Steve Kerr pulled him with six minutes left in the game and held him on the bench through the buzzer. 

Yes, it was a trap-game for Golden State. And yes, the Rockets still have to make the playoffs and beat a team or two to reach them. And yes, Scott Foster is out there somewhere, blowing his whistle at the moon, but the Rockets are 3-0 this season against the best team in basketball and it feels good. There are injuries and slumps and penny-pinching and now Terrence Jones, but there is no fear. 

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