While it's probably not the revenge they are ultimately looking for, the Houston Rockets earned a 132-127 win in double overtime on Thursday at Oracle Arena over the Golden State Warriors team that knocked them out of the last two postseasons.
The victory moved Houston to 12-7 and snapped the 16-3 Warriors' 12-game winning streak.
In a Western Conference showdown filled with superstars, James Harden shone the brightest with a triple-double. He directed the Houston attack with 29 points, 13 assists and 15 rebounds as the primary ball-handler, scorer and facilitator.
Sean Highkin of The Athletic commented on Harden's offensive freedom:
It wasn't only Harden, as Ryan Anderson poured in five three-pointers on his way to 29 points. Eric Gordon added 23 points off the bench, and the Rockets connected on 14 threes as a team. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle noted the Rockets hit at least 10 threes for the 18th straight game, which marked an NBA record.
Kevin Durant spearheaded the Warriors with 39 points and 13 rebounds, while Stephen Curry fought through foul trouble to post 28 points, five assists and three steals. Draymond Green just missed a triple-double with 20 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists, but Golden State received only 23 points from its bench in the shootout.
Despite the high scoring totals, Durant (3-of-11), Curry (4-of-13) and Klay Thompson (3-of-13 and 15 points) all struggled to establish consistency from three-point range.
The teams weren't shy attempting shots from behind the arc, as ESPN Stats & Info shared:
The offenses set the tone early, and Houston ended the first quarter with a 32-30 lead. Harden scored 11 points in the opening 12 minutes, while Durant countered with eight.
The first quarter included a beautifully placed pass from Harden to Gordon, as the Rockets shared:
Matt Moore of CBS Sports reacted to the throw:
The back-and-forth affair continued in the second, as Houston built a 41-35 lead before an 11-2 Warriors run gave them the 46-43 advantage. Houston battled back, and an Anderson putback gave it a 64-59 halftime lead.
The Rockets failed to create more separation after Curry picked up his third foul and went to the bench during the second quarter. With the reigning MVP on the sidelines, Golden State's offense ran through Durant on his way to 19 first-half points.
Moore reflected on the offense:
Houston received 14 points and six assists from Harden, and the Rockets had a 21-17 advantage on the glass, which had Andy Glockner of The Cauldron thinking ahead:
Houston's defense impressed early in the third and helped it build a 77-67 lead. Harden hit a three-pointer to open up the double-digit advantage.
However, the Warriors are nearly impossible to keep down for long, and Durant drilled a three and Curry made two quick baskets to cut the deficit to 79-74. Though it didn't count, this shot would have won Curry a trick-shot competition, as NBA on TNT captured:
Ethan Strauss of ESPN noted the small-ball attack that was limited early by Curry's foul trouble was cooking:
A Curry three kept the momentum rolling, but Houston maintained a four-point lead at 86-82 by the end of the third.
Houston received a boost early in the fourth when Montrezl Harrell soared over James Michael McAdoo for a dunk. Rohan Nadkarni of Sports Illustrated said, "James Michael McAdoo has to drop at least one of his names after that."
From there, an Anderson three made it 97-90 Houston with less than eight minutes remaining before the Warriors bounced back with a 7-0 run to tie the game.
It appeared as if Golden State would finally run away with it when Curry's free throws made it 104-101, but Houston responded with a 5-0 run capped off by a Gordon three. Still, the relentless Warriors answered again with an and-1 from Durant before Anderson and Curry exchanged baskets.
Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News was impressed with Houston's ability to keep pace:
The breathless tempo continued when Anderson drilled a three and put his team ahead 113-111 with two free throws with 22 seconds remaining. Durant tied it with two free throws, and Harden missed a potential game-winner on the final possession of regulation.
Curry scored Golden State's first six points of overtime, but a clutch Gordon three tied the game at 121 with one minute, 24 seconds remaining. Harden then found Sam Dekker with a beautiful pass after the defense collapsed to give Houston a two-point lead, but Thompson tied it with a mid-range jumper.
The Rockets had a chance to win, but they committed a shot-clock violation. Durant missed his potential game-winner, and the game went to a second overtime.
Houston seized momentum when Curry fouled out on a charge and Harden drilled a three. Green committed a flagrant foul by kicking Harden, and Kawakami said, "you can't just keep kicking your legs out like that."
Gordon converted a difficult shot in the lane after Harden's free throws, and multiple Houston offensive rebounds left the Warriors with less than 30 seconds left facing a six-point deficit.
Green kept the Warriors within striking distance with an and-1, but Trevor Ariza hit two clutch free throws to essentially clinch the win.
Next up for the Warriors are two home games against the Phoenix Suns and Indiana Pacers. Those two opponents were a combined 15-23 on the season coming into Thursday's action, so Golden State has a chance put more distance between itself and the rest of the league in the early going.
The Rockets will play the final contest of a five-game road trip on Friday against the Denver Nuggets. Houston is already 3-1 on the trip against all Western Conference foes and could finish strong against a struggling Denver team that is 7-11.
Green commented on his late flagrant, per Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post: "The idea they were going to call me for a flagrant foul never crossed my mind."
Green also said "Durant was stuck with tough shots because the offense was stagnant," per Bontemps.
Anthony Slater of the Bay Area News Group shared Durant's postgame comments:
According to Bonta Hill of 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said he didn't see the Green kick "but you can put two and two together."
The station shared Harden's take as well:
The NBA passed along Clint Capela's thoughts after the win:
While it is still early in the season, the Rockets will look to build on an impressive victory over the two-time defending Western Conference champions.