The Houston Rockets continued their West Coast road trip on Friday night against the Golden State Warriors. In a high-octane battle that saw the lead traded back and forth in the final quarter, Houston emerged victorious 116-112.
James Harden led all scorers with 26 points and added nine assists. Chandler Parsons scored 23 efficient points and swiped three steals. All three members of the Warriors frontcourt turned in double-doubles as David Lee, Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut tallied 53 points, 33 boards, five steals and three blocks between them.
The Warriors trailed by single digits for the majority of the game, but they fought back in the fourth quarter behind the dominant scoring of Marreese Speights. Yes, you read that correctly. But not even Speights' mighty fourth quarter could buoy the Dubs D, and the Rockets nipped them.
The disparity in three-point shooting decided the game, as Houston hit 12-of-29 and Golden State shot just 6-of-22. The Warriors fell despite a massive 24-rebound advantage.
In case you've been focused on the awful Eastern Conference, here's a news flash: Harden has been great in December, and Stephen Curry's been even better, but Harden and Houston got the best of him in this one.
Player grades start at a C+ for a decent overall performance, though a player's role is always taken into consideration. That will increase by a full letter grade for each extraordinary accomplishment (30 points, 15 rebounds, 10 assists, especially notable defense, et al.) and decrease by the same margin for less-than-ordinary performances (worse than 25 percent shooting, five turnovers, especially awful defense, et al.).
Instead of gold stars and frowny faces, here are grades for every player.
Warriors Key Player Grades
Stephen Curry, Point Guard
Curry picked up his third foul with five minutes remaining in the first quarter. Huh? It put the Dubs in a tough spot, but they hung with the Rockets and remained within striking distance.
Warriors are going to be without Curry for the majority of the first half. #Rockets have to take advantage. This would be nice road win.— Nick Mathews (@Nick_Mathews) December 14, 2013
The Warriors' ability to play well without Curry was on display again in the fourth quarter, with Bogut throwing down dunks from Klay Thompson and Speights of all people flashing some quality.
Golden State is ridiculously fun to watch. And I'm saying this as Steph Curry is on the bench.— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 14, 2013
Curry still logged 39 minutes despite the foul trouble and had 20 points with nine dimes. He fouled out at the very end and also committed six of the Dubs' 18 turnovers.
Though he got to the line 11 times, he was just 1-of-5 from beyond the arc. That's not why they make bobbleheads of him.
David Lee, Power Forward
Lee must have come directly from his kitchen to the game, because he was still cooking in the first half with 17 points. The double-doubles dynamo poured it on early and got to the line with regularity.
Lee was doing practically everything, grabbing rebounds and swatting shots, but he couldn't find the bottom of the basket as easily in the second half. Lee ended on 23 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
Klay Thompson, Shooting Guard
Thompson slogged through a tough first half on 2-of-8 shooting, but he did add two blocks on the other end.
He basically went into John Starks mode from downtown, shooting 1-of-7. He turned in a nice overall game with 15 points, five boards, five assists and a steal, but the Warriors needed a little more scoring from the backcourt to bolster their double-doublers up front.
Harrison Barnes, Small Forward
Barnes nearly notched a double-double by halftime, turning in nine points and seven boards. He decided to focus on scoring in the second half and finished with a big night: 20 points on 9-of-16, a game-high 12 boards (sorry, Dwight) including four offensive, four dimes and a steal.
You should probably just go out and buy a Barnes jersey right now. This kid is for real, and he's found his form since a spotty start to the season.
Andrew Bogut, Center
Bogut put in serious work on the boards and helped lead Golden State to a 56-32 rebounding edge.
Bogut notched his double-double in style early in the fourth quarter. He grabbed his 10th rebound on a putback slam and then flushed his 10th point through on the alley-oop from Thompson. Twitter expressed cautious approval of these bizarre hops from the Australian:
Andrew Bogut Lob City?!? Sure, why not.— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) December 14, 2013
I don't. umm. what? How did Bogut? What?— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) December 14, 2013
He also chipped in two steals and a block, and if he doesn't get injured this season, the Warriors are geniuses for locking him up.
Marreese Speights, Power Forward
Before the game, Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News asked Warriors coach Mark Jackson about one bench player in particular, querying, "What’s going on with Marreese Speights? He’s not getting many minutes lately."
Jackson replied bluntly: "Hasn’t played well. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. He understands he’s got to be better and we need him to be better. It’s as simple as that."
Speights came off the bench and turned in a brilliant performance; he baffled me, and possibly his coach, with his efficacy. Incredibly, he scored six straight points and 10 of 12 during one fourth-quarter stretch and gave the Warriors their first lead since the early second quarter.
He ended with 16 points on 7-of-14 from the floor plus nine rebounds. Take that, coach!
Rest of Bench
Draymond Green is—to put it simply—awesome. The brick wall of a small forward can shoot the three and rebound, and this season he's averaging 1.0 steals and 0.8 blocks in just 20 minutes per game. He's another one of those "fun" Golden Staters. Unfortunately, he wasn't hitting his two-pointers.
He shot 2-of-4 from downtown and 0-of-3 from whatever part of town is inside the arc. Green also came up with two assists and a block and even avoided fouling out with only five.
Toney Douglas reverted to 2011-12 New York Knicks mode on Friday night, which sometimes that happens to him. He went 0-of-3 shooting with zero assists. His defense was not affected, and he did grab a steal.
Apparently some guy named Hilton Armstrong scored two points, although I don't recall that happening. This is his first NBA action since 2011, so congrats to Hilton, an ex-Connecticut Huskie. I'll root for anyone coming out of Peekskill, N.Y.
Rockets Key Player Grades
James Harden, Shooting Guard
Harden threw down a tomahawk to beat the clock at the end of the first quarter. My jaw did not actually drop since I have slightly higher standards than the NBA, but it was still a pretty sweet play.
Despite this, Harden struggled with his shooting for long stretches and even missed his first two free throws, an oddity for an 85.5 percent shooter. As usual, he got things going in the fourth quarter to finish on 9-of-22 shooting and with the game-high 26 points, but his 5-of-14 first half wasn't inspiring.
Regardless of the subpar first half, Harden handed out nine assists to his buddies and facilitated the offense nicely
Dwight Howard, Center
Dwight Howard got booed lustily by the raucous Warriors fans, and let's be honest, is there a better way to boo? Howard was coming off a monster game (32 points, 17 rebounds, three blocks and two steals) the previous evening against the Portland Trail Blazers, but LaMarcus Aldridge had a slightly more monstrous stat line (31 and 25) in the Rockets loss.
They really, really don't like Dwight here. Imagine if he spurned Warriors offer to stay with Lakers.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) December 14, 2013
Dwight knew he had to do something different, and there was something in the salty air around the Bay Area that clearly agreed with him.
He made all seven of his free-throw attempts. Yes, that Dwight Howard, 7-of-7. And he hit a three-pointer! He finished with 18 points and 11 boards.
It's just too bad about those five turnovers.
Chandler Parsons, Small Forward
Parsons treated scoring like Chicagoans treat voting: Do it early and often. He balanced some shrewd scoring across both halves and ended the evening with 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting, plus three assists, three steals and a block.
Parsons ever busted out a "Eurostep" for a bucket early in the third quarter. He is from Casselberry, Fla. He brings boundless energy on a nightly basis and offers great versatility with his size and range.
In the interest of full disclosure, he is on my fantasy team.
Patrick Beverley, Point Guard
Patrick Beverley continues to turn in these sneaky solid stat lines which make him look like mini Mike Conley. He scored 16 on 7-of-9 and added two assists and two steals. In addition to his relentless on-ball defense which makes him like a 6'1" mosquito, he's rounding into a dangerous young point guard.
And he had ice water in his veins in the fourth. He drained a pretty pull-up jumper from 20 feet to put Houston up by five with 1:15 left. Then he then came right back down and converted a 15-foot floater to push the lead to seven. Then he unwisely fouled out in the final minute, so the kid still has some things to learn.
He's one of the reasons the Rockets are so fun to watch as well.
Terrence Jones, Power Forward
Terrence Jones had just three points in the first half, but he had a game-high plus-16 rating. The 6'9" forward played at the 5 during one stretch where the Rockets matched the Dubs' small lineup with Jeremy Lin and Omri Casspi off the bench.
Jones ended with a decent line of seven points, eight boards and two steals, but that 2-of-8 shooting performance is going to cost him.
Rest of Bench
Lin was just not very good off the bench. Sure, he had two assists and shot 2-of-4. And he padded his stats with some late free throws after Beverley fouled out. But he also fumbled away four turnovers in just 20 minutes and contributed his familiar brand of Ivy League defense.
Casspi contributed on both ends in limited minutes with 10 points, a rebound on each end of the floor, three steals, a block and an assist. Unfortunately, he committed zero fouls so there was one zero. If he could crack the starting lineup, he might be a nice deep-league fantasy sleeper.
When Francisco Garcia came into the game he shot some three-pointers. After all, the Rockets' Twitter account is pretty insistent about referring to him as "Gar3ia." Apparently he grabbed four rebounds, but all I remember are the 3ias, I mean threes.
Finally, Donatas Motiejunas scored two points. OK, they didn't come off one of the three field goals he tried, but two points are two points.
The 16-8 Rockets came in on a 10-4 stretch of success, but they've also lost three of their past five contests. Their sojourn will take them to California's capital to face the Sacramento Kings on Sunday, and then they head home for a date with the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, the 13-11 Dubs had won four of six games coming off a stretch in which they lost five of six. They visit the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night before returning to the Bay Area for a three-game homestand that gives them an excellent shot at another solid six-game stretch.