David Lee

Just a hunch: Rockets don’t want to face Warriors in playoffs after Saturday night

Curry Barnes play

The first words we heard going into the third quarter on the CSN Bay Area telecast, with the Warriors holding a 64-59 lead over the Rockets:

“Alright, Jim, which of the elite guards blows up in the second half — Curry, who was 2-of-8, or Harden, who was 2-of-9?” asked Bob Fitzgerald.

“I expect both of them to be much better offensively in the second half,” Jim Barnett said. “You know one of ’em’s going to break out, you just hope it’s the guy with the slate jersey.”

Within a minute and 17 seconds, Stephen Curry had already scored two points at the free throw line after getting Dwight Howard in the air, and scored on a layup off a backdoor cut.

What a play: Dwight Howard came over to double Curry at the left wing, even though Patrick Beverley (not a bad defender, and someone who takes pride in getting under Curry’s skin) was in the vicinity. Curry passed out of that situation, to Bogut (who was standing about 10 feet to his right, behind the three-point line), and went straight to the bucket. Howard froze for a second, drifting slightly toward Bogut. That put him in Beverley’s path, and while the Houston teammates got untangled, Bogut fed Curry for an easy layup.

Timeout Rockets, but it didn’t matter. The Warriors were up 10, and the lead would only increase.

The Warriors beat the Rockets by the ridiculous final score of 131-106. Maybe Houston would’ve performed better at home if they weren’t missing that star player who’s still injured … wait, they’re as close to fully healthy as they’re going to get this season. I just assumed they had to be shorthanded, considering how badly they got blasted in the second half, particularly the third quarter.

(Nerd alert: Yes, I know Terrence Jones is out with a mysterious nerve-related leg ailment. These are the things you learn when you draft Jones to both of your fantasy teams, and it’s why the Rockets signed Josh Smith.)

Curry had a great game’s worth of stats in the second half: 20 points on 7-for-10, four assists and three steals in under 16 minutes. But it was how he performed that magic, and how James Harden struggled in comparison, that stood out.

The NBA’s leading MVP candidate, who just so happens to play for Golden State (still kind of weird, isn’t it?), had two abnormally gorgeous highlight plays — even for him.

The first came in the third quarter, when Harden tried to drive on Klay Thompson (who constricted Harden all night, like a python suffocating and ingesting an impala). Harden lost the ball, Draymond Green grabbed it and took a couple dribbles before throwing a 45-foot pass that Curry barely corralled with one hand. As Curry’s momentum took him past the left side of the rim, he flipped up a shot with his right hand that went up and in while Beverley fouled Curry and sent him into a cameraperson sitting next to the basket stanchion, (that dude was sitting WAY too close to the court). Curry fell like a martial artist, rolling wherever his speed and Beverley’s contact sent him, sprawling on his back and somehow avoiding a catastrophic cameraperson-related injury.

Then there was this play, which we’ll definitely see for the rest of this season and possibly for the rest of our lives.

http://youtu.be/gu_lQ-LI6sc

By the time that play occurred the game was a rout, and the Rockets had to think about how they’d fallen to 0-3 against a team they couldn’t stand last season (well, they’re a lot better this season for starters).

Harden finished with just 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting, and had more fouls (five) than assists or rebounds (four each). Curry went for 27 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds (no fouls). Thompson didn’t need to prove he’s All-Star worthy this season, but he was the man who harassed Harden more than any other, and Harden went into this game as an MVP candidate. According to Ethan Sherwood Strauss, the only national writer I’ve seen who predicted the Warriors would win the title this year (before the season started), the MVP race isn’t a debate … at least for now. We’ll see if Harden responds when Houston visits Oracle on Wednesday.

Dub Steps

— I’m convinced that the  Warriors would either win a playoff series 4-1 or sweep if they faced the Rockets. Houston’s bench is Velveeta compared to the Warriors set of Mt. Tam reserves.

— The Warriors have won their three games against Houston by a combined total of 48 points.

— David Lee and Mo Speights combined for 33 points and 13 rebounds in 45 minutes off the bench. Lee also had a nice catch-and-dunk on a fast break off a pass from Curry, too.

— I wanted to like the Shaun Livingston signing, I really did. But he’s only valuable if Curry or Thompson get hurt. As it stands now, he’s like a ukelele player in a rap group.

— Thompson had 27 points on 15 shots, and five blocks.

— Andre Iguodala had five turnovers and the second-highest +/- on the team (+22), which might have messed with Kerr’s head if Kerr didn’t know how well Iguodala defends. Also, Fitz is a big fan of repeating what assistant coach Alvin Gentry said about Iguodala being the smartest player he’s ever seen.

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