#13 James Harden, 5th in the NBA in scoring, only made three field goals but finished with 20 points on the strength of 11 made free throws.
Twelve minutes in, Golden State appeared a lock to avenge those two ugly losses at Houston's fiery hands earlier this season.
They did what they set out to offensively. James Harden and Jeremy Lin did next to nothing. In fact Harden had three of his four first-quarter shots rejected. The Rockets registered just one inconsequential offensive rebound, a weapon employed to wear down the Warriors' bodies and psyches repeatedly this year.
Of course, for most of those twelve minutes, All-Star David Lee had been ravaging the Rockets' big men like a dinosaur up against Wayne Knight. Wayne Knight is the actor best known for playing Seinfeld's Newman, but I'm not here to talk about the distant past.
That is, until Lee banged knees with counterpart Thomas Robinson (I believe) and became a spectator for the half's duration.
Now, banged knees always hurt. Sometimes they heal within minutes, while they are also often season-ending (see: Shawn Bradley). I don't know the extent of Lee's injury yet, but I do know I've watched about 1,500 of NBA games in my 33 years and I've never seen a player who wasn't dazed or sprawled out on the floor hurting so bad that he stayed behind on D while his teammates ran a halfcourt set—as Lee had to do upon returning to action.
Back to the game...
Watching what transpired in the atrocious fourth quarter, Golden State fans should be asking themselves:
How does the NBA's No. 8 scoring team, featuring two of the league's top twelve individual scorers, a leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, the league's second-best percentage shooter from range, two of the league's three best volume shooters from long range and two of the league's top ten free throwers—on a night so fortuitous that Andrew Bogut hit the second three-pointer of his eight-year career—go nearly six full minutes without a point against a club that is second-worst in the league in points allowed?
Not six full minutes with no field goals. Six full minutes with no points.
How could the Warriors manage to lose despite out-rebounding Houston by 13, limiting them to 7 offensive rebounds (Toronto's Amir Johnson had a dozen against them 3/4 all by himself) not allowing Harden a field goal until 6:25 remained in the 2nd quarter and holding Houston 11 points below their season average?
The answer should not be attributed to something as simple or obvious as Lee's injury. The Warriors put up 105 points, barely losing to the Knicks last month during his suspension. It wasn't the stream of fourth-quarter fouls, though that definitely didn't help (especially since the prime beneficiary of said fouls shot 3-for-17 from the floor).
The reason Golden State lost to the Rockets last night: during halftime, the entire team changed the oil of ten lucky fans and failed to properly clean the slick stuff off.
How else do you explain all the comically errant shots, fumbled/misfired passes, many of which immediately followed defensive rebounds and countless other frustrating, broken plays?
The Blue and Gold committed 16 turnovers, which is misleading, as it does not include all the deflected passes, wild air balls, botched drives and ill-advised fouls that plagued Golden State in a twelve-point fourth quarter. Houston wasn't exactly crisp, either, but they tightened up when it mattered most.
Were it not for the collapse, this game would be remembered for two gorgeous Curry lefty flip shots, Klay Thompson's 24-point effort(including a sweet first-quarter buzzer-beater), Lee's opening domination and, of course, Bogut's rare triple, not to mention Robinson's rejection of his own shot and the uncalled basket interference on Rockets' forward Donatas Motiejunas.
Unfortunately, the collapse happened. The Warriors can't pout over it; not when they are looking to rebound with a win tonight, with old friends Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh, and Mike Dunleavy, Jr. awaiting them at Oracle.
Scoring 90 points—which the Dubs have failed to do in three of the last four games—would go a long way in that endeavor.