Revisiting 68: Warriors Get Big Statement Win at Houston

Mark Jackson’s been trying to tell you all along. Your worrying and fretting was unnecessary. His Warriors’ got this.

OK, he admitted it can be a little frustrated, their up-and-down. But the Warriors’ convincing 108-78 win at Houston on Sunday was just the latest evidence of what he’s been saying through it all.

MARK JACKSON: “We are a young basketball team that hasn’t experienced success. You’ve got to stay true to the process. I understand the frustration of fans. But for us we’re going to stay true to the process. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were not made overnight. They struggled. We’re winning going through the process. I’m proud of that. We’re going to be just fine. Like I said, there is no panic here. We’re excited about what we’re doing and where we’re headed.”

Golden State now sits 1.5 games ahead of Houston for the No. 6 seed. They have a chance to lock up a successful three-game road trip with a win at New Orleans tonight.

There is no question that if Golden State plays like it did Sunday, they’ll be dangerous in the playoffs. The trick has been getting them to play this way consistently. The dominant performance over Houston, as clutch as it was, came off an embarrassing defeat to Chicago.

Have the Warriors turned the corner? Or was this just the latest tease of an up-and-down team?

More on Sunday’s win …

MVP: Klay Thompson

Stephen Curry was the star of the night. Andrew Bogut played his best game as a Warrior. But there is no question the most valuable was Thompson. In one of his best games as a pro, Thompson finished with 26 points on 10 of 18 shooting. He scored 11 of his 17 second-half points in the critical third quarter, nailing some timely baskets when it looked like Houston was coming back. He outplayed James Harden, again, when the stakes were at the highest. Harden finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Hardly a bad night. But he was 6 of 16 shooting. He only got six free throws. And he was relatively quiet save for a spurt in the third quarter. Thompson stayed in front of Harden. He did a great job anticipating Harden’s foul-drawing tricks and he made Harden feel his presence.

JACKSON: “Klay Thompson was absolutely outstanding. … He’s a different guy. Truthfully, he realizes what he’s doing out on the floor. He takes pride in defending the bets. But he’s a guy that’s not going to be affected. He’s going to brush this one away and look forward to tomorrow night, the next challenge. But guys like that, you need their mentality.  He’s not bothered whether he makes 10, misses 10 or a guy scores on him. He puts the time in and trusts the results will come.”

MDP: David Lee

This was a game where the Warriors had very few bad performances. Jack was 3 of 11 shooting, but he was still pivotal. Barnes was 4 of 10, but he had five rebounds in 17:46 and he didn’t allow Chandler Parsons to get off. So that leaves Lee.

Not because he played so poorly. He was just 4 of 14 for 10 points, a quiet offensive night. And his 10 rebounds and four assists were pretty good. And he made sure a leser player, Donatas Motiejunas, didn’t hurt the Warriors (he finished with four points on 2 of 11 shooting with 3 rebounds).

The reason Lee is the Most Disappointing is because he was hating on me in the locker room after the game. He actually had the nerve to say I picked the Warriors to finish 13th. No, sir. Back in August, I said the Warriors would make the playoffs and this team should win at least 45 to 48 games. So no, All-Star, I did not doubt the Warriors. I challenged your team not to choke and play below its potential, a challenge that still exists.

KEY MOMENT I: After a shut-down first quarter, the Warriors led just 18-10 — hardly a comfortable margin. And after a three-point play by Greg Smith, the lead was down to five. It looked as if the Warriors were headed for blowing another early lead.

But the Warriors countered with a fade-away by Landry and, after a stop, Curry drilled a pull-up jumper. The lead was 22-13. Smith got another dunk, but Bogut answered with a layup, putting Golden State up nine with 10:04 left.

The Warriors defense then took oer the game. The Rockets next seven possessions: offensive foul, turnover, missed 3-pointer, missed 3-pointer, Harden free throws, turnover, missed jumper. After drilled a Lin 3-pointer, Curry answered with a 3 of his own and a pull-up jumper, putting Golden State up 34-20.

TELLING STAT: The Rockets finished with 78 points. This is the same team that dropped 140 on the Warriors at the Toyota Center last month and is one of the NBA’s highest scoring offenses. The Rockets could get nothing going. They were 9 of 35 from 3-point range. They attempted just 16 free throws. Their 12 offensive rebounds produced only 14 second-chance points. Their fast break was slowed to 14 points on 5 of 9 shooting. The missed 25 of their 42 shots in the paint. They had more turnovers (17) than assists (16). It was a complete and thorough dismantling of a potent offense.

CURRY: “We were on a mission to just play better defense and do it for 48 minutes. Each time we played them, we got better, but we couldn’t put a full game together.

YEAH, WHAT HE SAID: “It was his best game. I thought he had a live body. I thought he protected the paint. I thought he rebounded, defended the pick and roll. And when they put small guys on him, he made them pay the price. He was outstanding tonight and it just shows just how good we can be when he’s right.”

KEY MOMENT II: The Warriors led by 9 at the 4:00 mark in the second quarter. Jarrett Jack knocked down a 3-pointer. Thompson then baited Harden into a missed step-back 3-pointer then dropped in a fast-break layup.

A stop later, Curry zipped a left handed pass over Patrick Beverly and right pass the head of Omer Asik to Bogut, who had snuck behind the defense. Bogut dunked it with two hands, putting the Warriors up 43-27. Curry followed by blocking Lin’s layup, which led to a pair of free throws by Lee.

Curry followed a pair of free throws by Parsons with a 3-pointer. Then after Parsons missed from deep, Curry dropped in an 11-foot runner, capping a 14-2 run that put Golden State ahead 50-29. The Warriors led 54-31 at the half.

COACHES CORNER: As much as I have lamented Jackson for Curry playing off the ball so much, Sunday’s game was an example where it worked really well.

Curry was struggling against the Rockets’ trapping defense, especially when they brought in pesky guard Patrick Beverly. Jack wound up playing 30 minutes because Jackson really needed the pressure to be off Curry. But this time, the Warriors ran different sets. They didn’t rely exclusively on the curl off the double screen. On a few occasions, Curry just ran the show from the wing. Or they got him the ball at the elbow where he can size up Beverly or Lin in triple-threat. Curry finished with 11 assists and 3 turnovers largely because he was still allowed to be a playmaker without being trapped. That was because Jack ran point most of the game.

Another kudos for Jackson: nearly 46 minutes went to legitimate centers. Bogut played 32:55 and Festus logged just more than 12. That was a big reason the Warriors had a physical tone to their game. There were no easy layups, no running through the lane free and loose. Bogut was active and physical. He went after every board, getting his hands on well more than he grabbed. He blocked three shots and altered numerous others. And he and Ezeli produced 5 buckets and a rare 14 points of offense from the center position.

SERIOUSLY?!: Curry finished the first quarter 1 of 5 shooting. He missed his first three attempts from behind the arc. But over the last three quarters, he scored 27 points, making 11 of his next 17 shots and five of his next eight 3-pointers.

KEY MOMENT III: The Rockets put together the run you knew was coming in the third quarter. Consecutive hooks in the lane by Motiejunas got the Rockets offense going. Then a Curry turnover, which led to a fast-break layup by Harden, had the Toyota Center hyped and sparked a 23-6 Houston run. Lin scored nine points during the spurt, including the driving layup that cut the Warriors’ once-23-point-led to 62-57 with 4:40 left in the third.

But Thompson swished a 17-footer, then picked off a Harden pass to set up a Curry 3-pointer. After a stop, Curry found Thompson in the corner, open, for another 3-pointer, capping an 8-0 run that took a minute, 27 seconds.

Harden answered with a 3-pointer. But Ezeli dunked home Jack’s missed runner and, after a missed 3 by Lin, Curry dropped in a 25-footer to put the Warriors up 75-60. Houston never got closer than 10 the rest of the way.

BEFORE YOU GO: Warriors coach Mark Jackson sent out a tweet to Chandler Parsons (after the first meeting, Parsons said the two were friends after he told Jackson “hand down, man down”) after the game.

“Congrats on a great year. GREAT seeing U 2night!!!!!”

Chandler, of course, had to get off a comeback (why I like this guy). His response tweet:

“just be glad u don’t have to c us again.”

Marcus Thompson