After the Los Angeles Clippers whooped up on the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers in the first half of Thursday night’s TNT doubleheader, apparently the Basketball Gods decided to reward those who sat through that destruction with an instant classic for the second half of the night. In an early nominee for Game of the Year, the Houston Rockets went into Oracle Arena and stunned the Golden State Warriors 132-127 in double-overtime, snapping the Warriors’ 12-game winning streak in the process.
This one had just about everything you could ask for in a basketball game, from monster dunks:
To circus shots (that both didn’t count and counted):
To a record amount of three-pointers attempted:
We could’ve done without another Draymond Green karate kick and the endless replay reviews, but that’s the price to pay for a tension-filled game between two teams that have faced each other in the playoffs the last two years, and could very well see each other for a third straight year later this season.
If we can take away anything from this game, it’s that the Rockets aren’t the pushovers they were last season when they got punked by the Warriors in the first round despite the injury to the unanimous MVP. Houston, behind James Harden’s 29-point, 15-rebound, 13-assist triple-double, outplayed Golden State for most of the night, and then showed great resiliency when it looked like a win was going to slip through its grasp.
The Rockets lost their lead to the infamous “Death Lineup” late in the fourth quarter, but both Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon delivered huge buckets to help get the game to overtime. An early Stephen Curry flurry in the first overtime seemed to signal doom for Houston, but Harden, Anderson and Gordon again pushed back.
And how about young Sam Dekker, who had a huge offensive rebound and assist on a Gordon triple that tied the game at 121 apiece late in the first extra period. Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni trusted Dekker throughout crunch time, and the Wisconsin product rewarded his coach’s trust with effective minutes off the bench. Reserve big man Montrezl Harrell also provided a ton of energy, and the trio of Gordon/Dekker/Harrell combined for 47 points, 19 rebounds and eight assists off the bench. Patrick Beverley deserves props as well for his grimy play that helped earn him a game-best +21.
Anderson matched Harden with 29 points, and the power forward did more than just drain jumpers, as he also showed some craftiness under the basket to get on the scoreboard in key situations.
The Rockets finally broke through in the second overtime when Curry fouled out on a questionable offensive foul call and the Warriors ran out of gas. Kevin Durant had 39 points and 13 rebounds, but he went 1-of-7 in the extra frames and Golden State’s offense went south in a hurry. Green’s kick to Harden’s face was the cherry on top, with the flagrant foul sullying an otherwise superb night in which Draymond recorded 20 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists and countless hustle plays.
Curry may have finished with 28 points and a few highlight-reel plays, but make no mistake…he wasn’t good. He committed several dumb early fouls, had numerous careless turnovers and missed a plethora of good looks, including a few late dagger opportunities. But even worse was fellow “Splash Brother” Klay Thompson, who bricked his way to a 4-of-20 evening and didn’t offer many positives.
The Warriors can chalk this one up to a rough night, but the Rockets have to feel pretty good about themselves for earning this hard-fought victory in a place where it’s darn near impossible to win. Houston is now 12-7 and fourth in the Western Conference, with a date against the Nuggets in Denver on Friday. Golden State faces the Phoenix Suns on Saturday.