Coming off what could have been their worst loss of the season, the Golden State Warriors bounced back by ending the Houston Rockets‘ nine-game winning streak with a 106-104 victory on Wednesday night. Three days after losing to the Suns at home, the Warriors pulled out the win without Kevin Durant, who missed the game with a sore ankle, and avoided being swept in the season series.
Golden State was led by Klay Thompson’s 30 points on 5-for-10 3-point shooting, and received a huge game from DeMarcus Counsins, who finished with 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in 27 minutes. Stephen Curry added 24 points for the Warriors, while the Rockets were paced by James Harden’s 29 and Chris Paul’s 24.
Here are some takeaways from the game.
Cousins could be Houston’s problem
Cousins had a phenomenal overall game, but what stood out — particularly early — was his passing. The mountainous center used his eagle eyes and deft touch to deliver beautiful passes all night long, finding cutters and shooters alike. Without Durant, the Warriors needed another prominent half-court facilitator, and Cousins fit the bill to a tee.
In last year’s playoffs and in wins earlier this season, the Rockets’ switch-heavy defense gave the Warriors fits. It’s harder for them to do that with a threat like Cousins on the floor, and Houston had trouble finding a way to defend him. Clint Capela played 20 minutes in the first half since Nene is pretty much out of the rotation and Kenneth Faried can’t handle a skilled center of Cousins’ size. If these teams do end up meeting in the postseason, it will be interesting to see how the Rockets deal with Boogie moving forward.
“It was a good matchup out there for him,” Thompson said of Cousins after the game. “He’s so good at using his size against longer defenders. He just played probably the most complete game he’s played since he’s been here. I mean, I was getting wide-open looks from his passing ability and he adds a whole new dimension to our team, so you saw what he can do with us tonight.”
Before the game, Curry said the Warriors had a chance to “send a statement” against the Rockets., the Warriors got up for the big game and reminded everyone just how good they can be — even without Durant. The Warriors have seemingly been complacent for a good part of the season, yet still hold the No. 1 seed in the West and appear to rise to the challenge whenever they decide to up the effort. Whether they can do it in the playoffs will be a different story.
Klay stays hot
After missing two games with a sore knee, Thompson has been on an absolute tear. He came into Wednesday having scored 39 and 28 points, respectively, in his last two games, and kept the heat check going on Wednesday. Thompson worked off screens and pulled up for transition 3s, extending the Rockets defense and opening up the lane for Cousins and slashers.
Houston goes ice cold from deep
It wasn’t quite as bad as Game 7 of last year’s Western Conference finals, but the Rockets’ 3-point well ran dry again on Wednesday. They knocked down just 11 of 41 3-point attempts, with Harden, Paul and PJ Tucker combining to go just 5-for-25. As usual, Houston leads the league in 3-pointers made per game, but they just couldn’t find the range against the Warriors. Despite that they managed to claw their way back into the game at the end, but it was too little, too late.
It starts with ‘D’
Steve Kerr has said for the past few weeks that it’s time for Golden State to up its defensive intensity as they prepare for the postseason, and they certainly did it on Wednesday. Various Warriors did a solid job handling Harden’s isolations, and the hustle was definitely there when getting out on shooters. As potent as Golden State’s offense has been, their defense has been just as stout during their mini-dynasty. It seems like they still have the ability to get to that level based on Wednesday night’s win.