Warriors 113, Rockets 106 - Nothing of Value

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It's nearly impossible to dig yourself out of a hole against the Golden State Warriors. It's tough against any team, but against the Warriors it's just about impossible. The Houston Rockets began the night by falling into a deficit and never quite clawed back out. In a game between two Western Conference heavyweights, the only thing we learned is that it's good to hit open shots, and that's not exactly news. The Rockets come out of this game with a triple-double for James Harden and exactly nothing else to show for their efforts.Yes, James Harden put up a Triple-Double (now with inefficiency!). He may have to pay Russell Westbrook for copyright infringement by so accurately copying his brand. Harden logged 24 points on 11 rebounds and 13 assists, but shot a nightmarish 5-20 to get there. He missed 8 threes and hit just 1. The only place he shot well was from the free throw line, where he hit all 13 tries. This was a low-efficiency, tough-going, brutal night for the Rockets, and Harden embodied it unpleasantly well. His wrist clearly needs more healing, and hopefully he will be able to recover one way or another by the playoffs.

Beyond everything else, the biggest concern is over his wrist. Harden clearly wants to win the MVP, and seems to think that he's the front-runner. Unfortunately, he's probably correct. In this case, he has to weigh the merits of playing to try to hold onto the MVP with the potentially added credibility of playing in 82 games, or get some rest and let his wrist heal. The third seed is a mortal lock at this point, and the only point in playing is to go for awards and get as attractive a win total as possible. None of this even broaches the question of how much rest would help his wrist, which is presumably known only to the team and their doctors. It's hard to predict how this will play out, but look for a lot of different voices to call for different courses.

As for the rest of the team, they couldn't shoot to save their lives and kept missing layups. The team shot an abysmal 5-31 from behind the arc, as the Warriors paid any price to keep them off the three point line. Many of those shots were wide open, but the team also shot a mere 31 threes ("mere" being a highly relative term), pointing to the Warriors' success. When threes don't fall, defenses collapse and make the rack harder to reach, as well, and that happened tonight. It was a death spiral for Houston's offense, and it told us little of how the excellent Warriors defense would fare if the Rockets shoot at a more normal clip.

The Rockets, for their part, were also unprepared for Golden State's offense and were unable to slow them down in the first quarter in particular. They were in a 37-20 hole after one quarter and never quite recovered. The lead grew and shrank, and even got to within four points late in the game, but the Rockets were spent at that point. Expending the necessary energy to stage a comeback is hard enough without an injured star and a missing sharpshooter, much less against a historically great team.

Meanwhile, the Warriors were missing Kevin Durant, meaning that this team doesn't really resemble what they will look like in a potential Conference Finals matchup. Presumably they'll be even more deadly in this case, which is less than ideal news for their opponents. We're left with the same hypotheses we had going into this game: Houston will have to get hot from three to beat the Warriors, which isn't likely but seems possible. Sometimes, a loss is just a loss and nothing more.

Unless you think triple doubles matter, I guess. But I don't see anyone making that case, do you?

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