NBA scores 2014: The Warriors’ small-ball lineup extinguished the Rockets and 3 other things we learned Wednesday
Steve Kerr employed a terrific small-ball unit down the stretch that beat the Rockets and extended the Warriors’ franchise-record winning streak to 14 games.
The Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets got together for a good, old-fashioned heavyweight bout at Oracle Arena Wednesday night. The league-best 18-2 Warriors entered the game winners of a franchise-record 13 games in a row, while the 16-4 Rockets had won four straight.
Something had to give in this battle of Western Conference elite, and despite James Harden’s best efforts, it was the Rockets’ four-game winning streak that came to an end. Harden scored a game-high 34 points and had Houston up three points in the fourth quarter, but Golden State closed on a 22-7 run to take home a 14th consecutive victory, 105-93.
With Andrew Bogut out due to a knee issue, Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr employed a small-ball unit of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Shaun Livingston, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green down the stretch, and that group extinguished the Rockets on both sides of the ball. Golden State’s length and activity disrupted Houston’s offense, while the abundance of shooting and playmaking on the other end led to a bunch of good looks, which were made even better because of Dwight Howard’s absence.
Thompson led the way with 21 points despite shooting 1-of-8 from three-point range, using his improved off-the-dribble game to score despite his outside shot not falling. Curry had 20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, shaking off an early air-ball when the Warriors’ offense was stuck in a rut in the first half.
Perhaps the most important contribution came from Barnes, who played the stretch four role to perfection in the second half. Barnes scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half, and he finished 7-of-9 from the field and 3-of-4 from long range. The 22-year-old player was a forgotten man last season, but he has found his niche this year and is excelling under Kerr.
Early on, the Warriors’ streak appeared to be in serious danger. The Rockets attacked the paint relentlessly in the first half with Bogut out, and that led to 26 first-half points in the paint. Houston led by 11 points early in the second quarter, but Golden State finally clamped down and got back in the game.
The score was tied at halftime, and the second half featured both teams trading blows before the Warriors pulled away in the closing minutes. This was a huge victory for Golden State, which will now be tested on the road against three quality Western Conference opponents before returning home to face Oklahoma City and Sacramento.
3 other things we learned
Derrick Rose looked a bit more like himself: Rose had really been struggling since returning from a hamstring injury, and the biggest issues were poor shot selection and a lack of aggression going to the basket. It looked like it was going to be more of the same for Rose in the early going against the Nets, but then a light switched on and the Bulls‘ star went into attack mode. The 2011 MVP finished with 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting in a 105-80 victory, and while seven of those 15 shots came from behind the three-point line, his aggressiveness in the first half led to some wide open looks from deep in the second half. There were still a few forced three-point attempts and some bad turnovers, but this was one of Rose’s best games of the young season and a great sign for Chicago.
New York basketball is depressing: The Nets competed with the Bulls for a while without Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Mirza Teletovic, but the second half was an absolute disaster. Brooklyn shot 26 percent in the second half and 20 percent in the fourth quarter. With the 25-point loss, the Nets have lost their last three games by an average of over 23 points. Andrei Kirilenko has been traded to Philadelphia and the team’s top players are reportedly on the trading block. But Brooklyn — somehow still the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference at 8-12 — isn’t even the most depressing New York team. That of course would be the Knicks, who took a 109-95 beating from the Spurs‘ JV team. Carmelo Anthony sat out because of a knee injury, but San Antonio didn’t have Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard. The Knicks are now a dreadful 4-20 and have lost 10 straight games. All this amid a report that Anthony and Tim Hardaway Jr. nearly came to blows last week in a game against — the Nets. So fitting.
Andrew Wiggins played his best game of the year: Wiggins has had his ups-and-downs in his rookie season, but the No. 1 pick was way up in a stunning 90-82 victory over red-hot Portland. Wiggins notched the first double-double of his career, scoring 23 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in a career-high 44 minutes. He shot an efficient 9-of-16 from the field and got to the free-throw line 10 times, although the only downer of his night was the fact that he only shot 50 percent from the line. In addition to creating points for himself, he matched a career high with four assists and also had two steals. It was simply a superb all-around effort for the rookie, and we should expect plenty more of them for years to come.
Play of the Night
The Magic led the Wizards for most of the second half and looked to be in control down the stretch, but more John Wall heroics got Washington back into it. After Victor Oladipo missed a potential go-ahead jumper, the Wizards had the ball with 0.8 seconds left and a chance to win. The resulting game-winner by Bradley Beal was a thing of beauty.
8 fun things
Wizards 91, Magic 89 (Bullets Forever recap | Orlando Pinstriped Post recap)
Hornets 96, Celtics 87 (At The Hive recap | CelticsBlog recap)
Clippers 103, Pacers 96 (Clips Nation recap | Indy Cornrows recap)
Hawks 95, 76ers 79 (Peachtree Hoops recap | Liberty Ballers recap)
Timberwolves 90, Trail Blazers 82 (Canis Hoopus recap | Blazer’s Edge recap)
Bulls 105, Nets 80 (Blog a Bull recap | NetsDaily recap)
Mavericks 112, Pelicans 107 (Mavs Moneyball recap | The Bird Writes recap)
Spurs 109, Knicks 95 (Pounding The Rock recap | Posting and Toasting recap)
Warriors 105, Rockets 93 (Golden State Of Mind recap | The Dream Shake recap)
Nuggets 102, Heat 82 (Denver Stiffs recap | Hot Hot Hoops recap)