James Harden, Rockets Rally to Beat Warriors; Kevin Durant Buzzer-Beater Late

Alec NathanFeatured ColumnistOctober 18, 2017

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 17: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets handles the ball against the Golden State Warriors on October 17, 2017 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
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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: 

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. 

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: 

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: 

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: 

The reigning Sixth Man of the Year's contributions didn't go unnoticed by Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum: 

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:  

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: 

With Young in the zone, fans and analysts alike couldn't help but stand in awe of his shooting display: 

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.