Stephen Curry put the Golden State Warriors on his tiny, tiny shoulders last night with a beautiful last minute (near) buzzer beater over Dallas Mavericks forward Shawn Marion.
Hopefully he won’t have to do it again anytime soon. The Warriors have fallen into a habit of surrendering big leads to less-than-stellar opponents, then putting their fans through hell as they claw and scrape their way back into the game with a handful of in your face threes and timely stops. It’s become Bay Area basketball’s version of a Brian Wilson-led ninth inning circa 2010, minus the Duane Kuiper, ‘TORTURE!’ call.
There was no clawing or scraping the last time these two teams met. On Dec. 6, the Rockets spanked the Warriors 105-83 at the Toyota Center. James Harden led all scorers with 34 points and seven rebounds, and Dwight Howard made a case for his oft-criticized post game, beating up on an injured Jermaine O’Neal down low en route to a 22 point, 18 rebound masterpiece. He even shot better than 50 percent from the line (12-of-22).
In short, the last one was ugly. More than ugly, actually: it was disgusting.
Along with getting destroyed along the perimeter, the Warriors also lost the battle of the boards 62-54, with centers O’Neal and Andrew Bogut combining for just 10 rebounds in 35 minutes of play.
With O’Neal out indefinitely to recover from surgery on his wrist, Bogut and (to a lesser extent) David Lee will have to be much aggressive on the defensive glass. The Rockets now have the sixth best offensive rebounding percentage in the league, a dramatic improvement over last year when they finished below the league median at 16th. An offensive rebound for the Rockets is an opportunity to put the ball back in James Harden’s hands, and Harden has torched the Warriors from beyond the arc since joining Houston last year.
The Warriors’ relative struggles rebounding would not be a serious concern if their offense functioned with any sort of consistency. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case since Andre Iguodala – the only viable ball handler besides Curry – was sidelined with a hamstring injury. The loss of Iguodala also eliminated the team’s best perimeter defender, something they’ll miss against Harden and Chandler Parsons, who has evolved into something of a slasher/swingman.
Finding a way to contain the scoring efforts of Harden and Howard will be difficult, particularly if Parsons finds a way to make his presence known as well. That being said, if the Warriors can find a way to eliminate second chance points, that should put the team in a stronger position to win what will likely be a high scoring affair.
Time: 7:30 PST
Place: Oracle Arena
TV: CSN Bay Area/ESPN
Player to watch: Stephen Curry.
Curry finished the game against the Mavericks with 30 points, 10 assists and 8 turnovers. If he cuts that last number in half, maybe he won’t have to spend his fourth quarter creating his own shot, hitting wave after wave of three pointers.