I’m as excited about tonight’s game between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets as any regular season tilt I can remember over the last few years, and not just because I’m heading out to Oracle later today to cover the game. This isn’t just an ordinary NBA game in February, it’s jammed with so many storylines that even the laziest columnist could find five angles to write on.
And since I’m lazy and don’t even have a column, let’s dive into why I’m excited to drive across the bay (besides the In-N-Out off 880, which has become a not-so-healthy habit I’ve acquired when I drive to Warriors games instead of BARTing).
This isn’t technically true, as Lin played the last 1:27 in Oakland on Dec. 28, 2011, a 92-78 win for the Warriors. That was Lin’s first game as a Knick, way before “Linsanity” occurred in February. Now he’s a full-time starter with the Rockets, and he returns to the place where his NBA career began. Lin was a sideshow as a Warrior. A normal home game at Oracle would consist of fans cheering for Keith Smart to put him in the game, then Smart finally acquiescing near the end, and Lin fearlessly taking the ball to the rack with no intention of passing … ever. Tonight is Asian Heritage Night, and the cheers for Lin will be loud — which will probably upset the Warriors and create a strange crowd dynamic, kind of like when the Lakers come to town. On the subject of the Warriors getting upset…
I loved the way Mark Jackson handled the end of that blowout in Houston. First, the game went from boring to interesting to “Ooh, there may be a fight here” in a very short span. Second, I could see why Jackson had the Warriors foul the Rockets instead of letting them go for the single-game 3-point record. Many have pointed out that if the Warriors played better defense, they wouldn’t have been in a position to let the Rockets embarrass them with by making 24 threes in one game. However, when the crowd started chanting “ONE MORE THREE,” the Warriors almost didn’t have a choice. If I was on that court, I would’ve wanted to foul a Rockets reserve as well. There’s no room for dirty play, but other teams enjoy themselves at the Warriors’ expense for too long.
They should be, anyway. Andrew Bogut will get to back up that tweet above tonight, and while Jarrett Jack is questionable I have a feeling he’ll play. Jack has six days to rest after this game, which could either mean he’ll have plenty of time to recover from tonight’s game or the Warriors will want to keep him in street clothes to ensure he’s as close to 100% as possible in Utah a week from today. But after watching him hoist jumpers in his short-sleeved jersey yesterday, I think he’ll be in there.
(Update: the previous paragraph was pretty … pretty … pretty … pretty dumb.)
Also, the last time I saw Bogut in person was on Nov. 7 in the Warriors’ 106-96 win over the Cavs, when he went scoreless in 17 minutes (and memorably treated the ball like a hot potato, almost like Andris Biedrins). After that night he sat out the next 38 games.
The Warriors are coming off a four-game losing streak (otherwise known as a reminder that roadtrips against Western Conference teams don’t usually go as smoothly as Eastern road swings). Failing at home against a Rockets team coming off a loss in Sacramento two nights ago could lead to a little doubt creeping in over the break as they prepare for their 30-game run toward a potential playoff berth.
The Warriors sunk from the No.5 to No. 6 seed in the West over the past week, and the Rockets are creeping up from behind (and they aren’t asking what their interests are, or who they be with). If you’re a believer in point differential, and I am, the Rockets are a worrisome team on the Warriors’ tail. The Rockets’ differential is +2.9 points per game. The Warriors are three games ahead of Houston, but they’re scoring 100.9 ppg and allowing 100.9 ppg. While some are worried about the sleeping giant down south coming up and wreaking havoc in the West, Golden State should worry more about James Harden and the Rockets than Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.