By: Caleb J. Duncan
The Houston Rockets defeated the Golden State Warriors 135-134 in overtime to move to 22-15 on the season after a game that saw the injury-riddled Rockets down by 20 points early in the game.
James Harden hit consecutive 3 pointers at the end of regulation, sending the game to overtime and during overtime, securing the win.
The Rockets were without Chris Paul and Eric Gordon who are both integral pieces to the Rockets offensive prowess (and in Paul’s case, defensive might). Paul’s lingering hamstring issue has kept him sidelined indefinitely while Gordon is dealing with a mild knee bruise that isn’t considered serious. They did receive a small boost with James Ennis III returning and scoring 3 minutes in eight minutes of play. At one point, James Harden left the game after taking an elbow to the face on a rebound. He returned shortly after only to see Austin Rivers sit out a couple minutes due to a neck injury that also occurred on a rebound. He too returned to finish the game.
With only 2.7 seconds left in the game, James Harden hit a contested three-point shot in the face of Draymond Green, former Defensive Player of the Year. With just 1 second left the Warriors tried to sink a distant three that came up empty, solidifying the Rockets big comeback after struggling early in the contest.
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James Harden continued his epic streak Thursday night by scoring 44 points with 15 assists to go along with 10 rebounds. He is averaging 41.1 points per game since the start of December and has gotten his third triple-double in just 10 games (two of them against Memphis). Harden also made 10 three’s to tie Chandler Parsons’ franchise record. He continued to evade (good) defense on the night and draw fouls to open things up as the team’s early struggles looked eerily familiar to last year’s game seven of the Western Conference Final when the Rockets were stone cold.
Danuel House Jr. continued to prove his ability by notching 17 points. Austin Rivers, starting for Eric Gordon, had 18 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists (he has scored in double digits in every game for Houston so far). Clint Capela, while likely to be overshadowed by Harden’s big night, scored 29 points to go along with 21 rebounds in a night where D’Antoni opted to keep Nene off the court due to mismatches. Gerald Green came off the bench to score 16 points.
Despite the loss, the Warriors were unstoppable offensively. Kevin Durant scored 26 points with 7 rebounds, Kevon Looney dominated the first quarter and ended up with 12 points. Steph Curry played like he normally does and scored 35 points while Klay Thompson proved his shooting slump was temporary and ended with 26 points, going 4-8 from behind the arch.
The Warriors dominated in most stat lines The scored over 50% on the night, made 14 3-pointers, had more assists, blocks, points off turnovers, and points in the paint. In the end, it was turnovers that gave Houston the upper hand who did not give up a turnover in the second half until about the final minute of the game. This was a rare improvement for Houston who regularly turns the ball over.
One of the most questionable calls of the night, however, came when Kevin Durant took several steps out of bounds, threw the ball back in, and Curry scored made the shot to take the lead with under a minute left. Somehow the officiating crew missed the call and if not for Harden’s game-winner many might be questioning the validity of a Golden State win.
James Harden, last year’s MVP, is once again being considered for the same accolade now that he has brought the Rockets out of their early-season funk after parting ways with Carmelo Anthony and suffering a string of injuries to almost every player. The team was 11-14 entering December before winning the next 10 of 11 games, going undefeated in December, and winning six straight games after tonight.
Golden State has now lost 3 home games in a row. DeMarcus Cousins remained sidelined but the hope is that he will return soon.
The Houston Rockets are still 4th in the Western Conference behind Golden State at 3. While most believed these two teams would be duking it out for the number 1 seed, the Denver Nuggets and (long-awaited) Oklahoma City Thunder have taken the top two spots, forcing even the league-best Golden State to keep their foot on the pedal.
The Rockets play the Trail Blazers on Saturday.
Golden State plays the Kings on Saturday.
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