Golden State Warriors can’t contain James Harden in loss to Rockets

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images /

The Golden State Warriors fell to the Houston Rockets despite building a big lead early on, with James Harden delivering the final blow.

Though the Houston Rockets still sit in fourth place in the Western Conference, James Harden might have jumped into first place in the MVP standings after capping off an incredible comeback against the Golden State Warriors with an insanely difficult game-winning three-pointer over both Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.

The Rockets, for the second time this season, left their matchup with the Warriors as the victors, winning 135-134. This comes less than a year after falling to the eventual-champ Dubs in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. And though the Rockets struggled early on this season, Harden is on a historic tear at the moment, doing the kind of stuff that only the greats do. He finished Thursday night’s win with 44 points, 15 assists, and 10 rebounds.

Harden only left the Warriors one second to work with, allowing Steve Kerr too little time to draw up an open look for his team. Kevin Durant caught the ball from about 30 feet and flung it up while fading, missing, but making it a surprisingly close miss despite the degree of difficulty.

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Durant finished the game with 26 points on 10-23 shooting from the field, knocking down all of five of his free throw attempts, but only making one of five three-pointers. He also added seven rebounds and three assists. Despite his strong overall game, Durant couldn’t get it done down the stretch.

Calling his own number for much of the late fourth quarter, he went 2-7 in the last 3:58 in regulation. In fact, the only other Warriors attempt over that stretch was one Stephen Curry shot attempt, which missed. The two-time Finals MVP hunted the dagger, forcing up a three-pointer with 1:09 left on the game clock, 15 seconds left on the shot clock, and a six-point lead. He missed and helped jump-start the 6-0 run that sent the game into overtime. Instead of playing the clock, he went for the kill shot and it backfired.

Curry, who has been adjusting to new rotations, led the Warriors in scoring. He had 35 points on 14-27 shooting from the field, going 5-15 from beyond the arc. Despite his strong game, he was largely uninvolved in the final moments.

The Warriors continued to have problems with talented opposing centers. Clint Capela absolutely dominated them, going for 29 points and 21 rebounds. Kevon Looney had nine quick points in the first quarter but only finished with 12 for the game, adding seven rebounds of his own in 21 minutes. Though Capela got what he wanted, Looney showed once again that he’s a competent perimeter defender against Harden.

Though the Warriors can’t be happy with letting a 20-point lead go, they have to be pleased with another great shooting night from Thompson, who has had trouble finding the range this year. He had 26 points on 11-20 shooting from the field, making four of his eight 3-point attempts.

Last night’s contest was another instance of this year’s Warriors inability to put teams away. Building a commanding lead early, Golden State let it slip away in the second half as Harden came alive. Playing at full strength, the Warriors’ late-game execution–or lack thereof–left a lot to be desired, especially with how disengaged Curry was and how much Durant had to isolate to try to put Houston away.

The Warriors drop to 25-14, good for third place in a tightly contested Western Conference. They are 1.5 games behind the conference-leading Denver Nuggets. The Rockets trail Golden State, improving to 22-15 mostly on the strength of Harden’s incredible play as of late.

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The Warriors look to bounce back tomorrow against one of this year’s biggest surprises: the Sacramento Kings.