The Houston Rockets spoiled the Golden State Warriors' title celebration Tuesday night behind a furious fourth-quarter comeback to down the defending champions 122-121 at Oracle Arena.
While Kevin Durant drilled what appeared to a game-winner as time expired, a review showed the ball was still in his hands when the clock hit zero:
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
No good. https://t.co/GV8j7jemvh2017-10-18 05:30:37
Houston had a big hill to climb trailing by 13 points entering the fourth quarter, but standout performances from James Harden, Eric Gordon and PJ Tucker propelled the Rockets to a 34-20 scoring edge over the final 12 minutes as the Warriors slipped to 0-1.
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
Rockets spoil Warriors’ banner night! https://t.co/D9IFrckGRu2017-10-18 05:29:15
Part of that late burst can be attributed to the Warriors' injury woes.
Already missing Andre Iguodala (back), Golden State had to play the entire fourth quarter without Draymond Green after he left late in the third quarter with a left knee strain, according to ESPN.com's Chris Haynes.
As the Warriors faltered time and again down the stretch, NBC Sports Bay Area's Monte Poole and Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher couldn't help but point out how flimsy the defense looked:
Monte Poole @MontePooleNBCS
No Draymond. No Andre. It shows.2017-10-18 05:24:19
Ric Bucher @RicBucher
Absence of @Money23Green painfully apparent in these closing minutes. Defensive backbone missing.2017-10-18 05:25:01
Favorable circumstances aside, the Rockets had to be pleased with their opening-night statement.
Although Chris Paul was quiet in his Houston debut with four points, 11 assists and eight rebounds, Harden flashed MVP-caliber form to the tune of a game-high 27 points, 10 dimes and six boards while showcasing impressive burst on both ends, as Vice Sports' Michael Pina noted:
Michael Pina @MichaelVPina
James Harden is in phenomenal shape, and it’s showing on both ends2017-10-18 04:39:56
Head coach Mike D'Antoni also had to be encouraged by Gordon, who dropped 24 points off the pine, including two in emphatic fashion over Warriors rookie Jordan Bell:
Bleacher Report NBA @BR_NBA
Welcome to the NBA, Jordan Bell 😬 https://t.co/b2EyWdtnGk2017-10-18 03:42:56
The reigning Sixth Man of the Year's contributions didn't go unnoticed by Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum:
CJ McCollum @CJMcCollum
Gordon a bucket2017-10-18 05:17:26
Joining Gordon in double-figures were Tucker (20 points) and Luc Mbah a Moute (14 points), whose efforts helped the Rockets post 58 bench points and compensate for down evenings from Paul and Trevor Ariza.
ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne pointed to Tucker and Mbah a Moute as driving forces behind the comeback:
Ramona Shelburne @ramonashelburne
Very underrated part of Rockets off-season was pickups of Luc MM and PJ Tucker. Extra toughness and defense that paid off immediately2017-10-18 05:36:20
On the flip side, the Warriors generally looked like a well-oiled machine before things fell apart late.
True to form, Durant (20 points), Stephen Curry (22 points) and Klay Thompson (16 points) all reached double figures with ease as Golden State shot 53.8 percent from the field, 53.3 percent from three and assisted on 79 percent of its buckets.
But on a night when that trio received championship rings, it was a newcomer who stole the show.
Working off the bench, free-agent signee Nick Young came out scalding hot and ingratiated himself to the Bay Area faithful immediately by pouring in a team-high 23 points on 8-of-9 shooting, including 6-of-7 from three.
Young was particularly hot in the first half, when he dropped 20 points and played his own personal game of around the world by dotting the arc with threes from all angles, as the NBA documented on Twitter:
Nick gets Swaggy with 20 first half points! (5/6 3PM) #KiaTipOff17 https://t.co/2eWCAkANuZ2017-10-18 04:18:28
With Young in the zone, fans and analysts alike couldn't help but stand in awe of his shooting display:
Chris Herring @Herring_NBA
What Nick Young is doing will seem like a fluke. But he was a fantastic offensive fit for the Dubs. Literally all he has to do here is shoot2017-10-18 03:58:24
Marc Stein @TheSteinLine
Swaggy wants Sixth Man Award votes on Opening Night ...2017-10-18 03:47:59
Ben Lyons @iamBenLyons
Who told Swaggy that if he goes for 50 tonight he gets a ring?2017-10-18 04:04:32
Brandon Jennings @brandonjennings
Dawggggg Nick Young is Hoopping!!!!2017-10-18 03:36:35
However, Young finished a team-worst minus-10 in 26 minutes, as his repeated defensive lapses in crunch time proved costly.
Now 0-1 for the second straight season, the Warriors will attempt to tally their first win Friday night on the road against the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Rockets, meanwhile, will eye a 2-0 start Wednesday when they travel to the Golden 1 Center for a showdown with the Sacramento Kings.