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Golden State Warriors 123, Houston Rockets 110: Just let it end

This has to be the most depressing NBA season I have ever watched – and the Golden State Warriors are to blame for this as much as the Houston Rockets.

I just don’t know who’s going to stop the Warriors not just for this season, but for the next 3 to 5 seasons. Their players are not old. The rising salary cap means that they can keep everyone. The unique style of their players means that not only are they impossible to replicate, but the classic situation where a lesser star on a championship team wants to leave to lead his own team becomes less likely. They appear to be immune to the Disease of More which has killed past champions.

Tonight, the Houston Rockets tied the game through the first three quarters. Then in the fourth quarter, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson did not score a single point, and yet the Warriors blew the Rockets out anyways. The Rockets could not buy a basket, Harrison Barnes dropped in 17 points making shots that a superstar would make, and that was that. The Warriors march on to perfection, and the Rockets to futility.

If you remain an eternal optimist, I suppose you could suggest that hanging with this perfect team for three quarters was not bad. And the Houston Rockets have had plenty of worse losses this season.

But the fundamental problems still remain. First, the Rockets offense could not produce without James Harden. Harden had 37 points, and managed to out shoot Curry from long range. It was a really good game from Harden, and he was not that terrible on defense either. Barnes just ended up getting hot like every role player on the Warriors seems to do.

But while Ty Lawson has had his moments throughout this season, it is clear that his acquisition has been a disaster and Daryl Morey will almost certainly let him go at the end of this season if not sooner. He had zero points, one assists, and played passively. What we saw tonight, as well as this season, is that in a 1-4 or 1-5 screen and roll, the opposing teams switches defenders and Lawson will find himself on a bigger defender. He will make a short drive, but then get intimidated when he sees the center at the rim and pull out.

Now, Andrew Bogut was fantastic tonight. In the early fourth quarter where the game got away, Bogut shut down the Rockets on defense and forced them into tough jumpers. But Lawson is just timid now when he has the ball, and it is totally different from what Morey and Rockets fans thought we were getting. While I am sure Lawson’s failure will continue to reinforce the narrative that Harden cannot play with a ball-dominant point guard, the fact is that Lawson has largely not played at the expected level even when he does dominate the ball.

Small, athletic point guards like Lawson have short life spans because the minute their athleticism goes, they crash and burn out of the league. Just look at how Allen Iverson ended his career. This is even worse in Lawson’s case because he cannot shoot. Rockets fans heard the warning signs about Lawson’s shooting in the offseason, but assumed that playing alongside Harden would improve his three-point percentage.

It has not. Lawson is shooting less than 34 percent from long range, the worst of his career. And while Thornton has been a pleasant surprise ( and he was decent tonight, scoring 15 points 5-12 shooting), Thornton is very much a hit and miss player. Flip a coin, he scores more point than Harden. Flip it again, and Kobe would be shocked with his chucking.

The Rockets need consistency. They need consistent effort on the defensive end. They need a consistent offensive cast where Harden knows what he can expect from his teammates night in and night out. They are not getting it, while the Warriors have players who can step up and take over games even when Curry and Thompson are not playing.

And somehow, the Rockets are going to have to find a way to beat this team at some point in the next few years.

Also, Kevin McHale showed up on TNT to talk about his firing from the Rockets. McHale made it clear that the firing took him by surprise and that there was no forewarning. While he admitted that Houston had played badly to that point and that there were tons of problems at training camp ( such as an out of shape Harden), he observed that getting to the Western Conference Finals last year should have bought him more time. McHale said that he thought things could have turned around in a month to six weeks.

I liked McHale more than most Rockets fans, and I did not think firing him was going to change all that much. But something had to be done to show that the starting result was not acceptable. Now, it is just another sign of this disappointing, terrible season where Houston has now to worry about making the playoffs.

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About the author: The son of transplants to Houston, Paul McGuire is now a transplant in Washington D.C. The Stockton shot is one of his earliest memories, which has undoubtedly contributed to his lack of belief in the goodness of man.

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