Not for the first time this season, a solid defensive effort from a shooting guard makes James Harden look far less than MVP’ish, as the Golden State Warriors beat the Houston Rockets 131-106, their third win in three encounters between the teams this season.
Harden was blocked five times and scored only 12 points on 4-of-15 from the field as the Golden State Warriors kept doing what they’ve been doing so well all season long. It shows up on the fast break differences (23-16), turnover margins (17-14), points in the paint (64-56) and field goal percentage (54.9-42). Bottom line? As of now, the Warriors are a much better team than the Rockets, probably the best in the NBA, if the record is something to go by.
Well it’s not just the record. Being so dominant against the Rockets goes a long way, and it shows just how devastating this team can be. They didn’t really miss a beat while Andrew Bogut was out, but now that he’s back they seem even more dominant and difficult to figure out than before. Stephen Curry scored 27 points to go with 11 assists while Thompson scored 27 himself, proving once more that elite defenders can give Harden a very hard time.
The key with Harden is not letting him take advantage of the first step and get himself in the paint. If Harden is limited to taking tough shots, then you’re golden. There are days in which he stars hitting everything, but as long as doesn’t take too many trips to the line, you’re in a good spot. Him not beating defenders means no open shots for players like Trevor Ariza and others. Even when he doesn’t score, Harden’s is the team’s number one playmaker, and without him creating open looks for others, the Rockets are in quite a bind.
That’s one of the things Steve Kerr changed about the Warriors. Mark Jackson can try to do all of his politicking and convincing through the media, while getting Jeff Van Gundy to help him attack Joe Lacobs and try to make all the Warriors success about himself. The fact of the matter is the Warriors aren’t just better – they’re elevated to being the best in the NBA without too many personnel changes. Their offense is clicking, and doesn’t rely on one player to move the chains anymore.
Putting Andre Iguodala on the bench, making Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes starters (although it helped that David Lee got injured) and having a much better Marreese Speights than before has made the Warriors a deep team with almost no holes in it, having two units that have no problem interchanging, creating what so far seems to be a team that can put itself up with some of the best regular season teams in the history of the NBA.