The Houston Rockets came into Oakland after winning three consecutive road games. Like the Warriors, they won at Denver. Then the Rockets prevailed in Portland on Wednesday and at Phoenix on Thursday. The Rockets have the record of a playoff team, and in the Western Conference that means something.
It’s all too easy to look for faults in wins and losses, or obsess over talent squandered or lost completely by the Warriors. The truth, at least over the past week, is that the Warriors are playing decent basketball. They’re moving the ball pretty well, playing spirited defense for stretches and have even won a couple in a row over winning teams.
But in typical Warriors fashion, the previous paragraph comes with a caveat — they’re either staying in games or winning them despite a starting lineup that bogs down the team all too often. Well, not all of the starters … one, mostly (guess who!).
On Sunday evening the Warriors started the game as if they had just woken up from their afternoon naps, committing 5 turnovers in the first few minutes and playing zero defense. Houston led 29-23 after the first quarter, but it would only get better from there for Golden State.
Andris Biedrins was removed from the game 5 minutes in, after compiling a 2-to-1 foul-to-rebound ratio. He wouldn’t return until after halftime — when he played 5 more minutes, picked up 2 more fouls and sat down for the rest of the game. Less than 11 minutes total for Biedrins, who ended up with 2 rebounds, 4 fouls and 1 steal. He scored 0 points for the eighth time in his last 10 games, and Sunday night was the fifth time during that stretch that he didn’t attempt a single shot.
Ekpe Udoh played 31 minutes, and the Warriors outscored the Rockets by 17 during that time. The plus-minus mavens again went home happy.
Dorell Wright went 3-for-4 (including 2-for-2 from 3-point range), but he, like Biedrins, rested during the formative minutes of this game. Wright contributed to the team’s uninspired first quarter defense, and in return only received 18 minutes from Mark Jackson.
Brandon Rush played 22 minutes, and while his stats were nearly identical to Wright’s it was clear that Rush was more comfortable (or willing) to chase Houston’s wing players around.
Monta Ellis put on a display of offensive efficiency, but the Warriors wouldn’t have won as handily as they did without their top three bench players (Udoh, Wright and Klay Thompson) severely outplaying the Rockets’ first three reserves (Courtney Lee, Patrick Patterson and Chase Budinger). Not as much in the stat sheet — although the Warriors’ trio shot better — but in terms of energy put forth.
Lots of Biedrins chatter in Jackson’s press conference, as you’ll see in the video below. The Warriors’ head coach isn’t ready to take him out of the starting lineup yet, since only Patrick Ewing in his prime would be preferable to Biedrins. Jackson was surely joking, but his increasingly positive comments about Biedrins are … interesting. And I mean “interesting” in the least believable sense possible, since this is the most praise I’ve ever heard for a player who has as much effect on the game as the halftime entertainment.
— The Warriors have won four of their last six, which in Golden State is almost reason for celebration. The goal now, according to Monta Ellis, is to head into the All-Star Break at .500.
— The Warriors are 10-14, and have six games left before the Break. So all they need to do is go 5-1 over 10 days starting with Tuesday’s game against the Suns. That includes two consecutive road games against Oklahoma City and Memphis. Good luck.
— In case you didn’t watch the Jackson presser footage above, Ralph Barbieri was there last night with his son. Barbieri asked a couple questions during the press conference (he sat in the back, so when his familiar voice suddenly appeared it was a bit surreal, like someone was playing KNBR on a boom box). Barbieri was also seen in the locker room chatting with Ellis and Stephen Curry.
— How often does Nate Robinson know where he’s going to pass the ball when he drives the lane and jumps? I’m going with about 40%, which could be generous.
— Biedrins was holding his 10-month-old son outside the locker room, and that is one BIG blond baby boy. Huge. I’m pretty sure the kid was 4-feet-tall and weighed at least 95 pounds.