The wins just keep coming for the Golden State Warriors, the best team in the NBA. It’s now 14 in a row, beating the Houston Rockets 105-93 despite a fantastic performance from James Harden, as the defense became a bit too much and good even for him.
Steve Kerr, a rookie head coach, has now won 19 of his first 21 games, the first to ever do so. His 14-game win streak as a rookie coach is now tied with the 14 Paul Westphal had with the Suns in 1993, trailing only Red Auerbach and Mike Dunleavy to set a new record. During their win streak, the Warriors have won 10 of their 14 games by double digits, outscoring them by an average of 13.3 points per game, out shooting them 47.5% to 40.5% and scoring eight points more on the fast break.
While the Rockets seemed to have just Harden (34 points, 8 rebounds), the Warriors featured three players with 20 points or more. Klay Thompson scored 21 points, Stephen Curry and Harrison Barnes each scored 20. Barnes along with Draymond Green provided the long arms on defense that finally allowed the Warriors to run the floor and bust the game open in the fourth quarter, eventually outscoring the Rockets 21-12 on the fast break.
Harden had a very difficult time going to the line. Despite scoring so much, one of his biggest strengths is gutting a defense open and pinning a lot of fouls on players. He had only four free throw attempts in the game, something that rarely happens. The Rockets finished with just 9-of-35 from beyond the arc and lost the turnover battle. When you rely so heavily on making shots from the outside, you can’t afford to have Ariza miss eight of 12 attempts while Jason Terry, back on the bench, going o-for-5 from beyond the arc.
The Warriors are fun to watch on offense, with the ball moving quickly, players having creative freedom to do more than the usual pick & roll or screen and pop moves. However, their biggest strength has been the ability to lock down the paint in the fourth quarter, as the Rockets finished with just 17 points in the fourth, outscored by 15 points. It looked like they were having a hard time even lobbing passes down low in the final minutes. Tarik Black has been a useful player and Donatas Motiejunas with 18 points has certainly stepped up, but neither of them are a suitable replacement for Dwight Howard.
The Rockets also got five total point from their bench. Compare that with the ability of Marreese Speights (15 points in 20 minutes) and Shaun Livington with 8 points and you get another gulf between the two teams, at least while Howard and Jones among other players are out.
The Warriors struggled defensively for big parts of the game because of Bogut not playing, but Kerr has indicated his absence shouldn’t be a lengthy one. With David Lee also close to making his return, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of changes to his lineup and rotation Kerr will make after the combination of Barnes and Green has proved to be so effective on both ends of the floor, and is a big part of why the Warriors look so good so far this season.