OAKLAND – They rebounded like demons and owned the paint. The shot well enough, for the most part. And for the first time this season, they received terrific energy and production off the bench from free-agent signee Marreese Speights.
So much of what the Warriors did wrong in lopsided defeat last week at Houston was done right against the Rockets on Friday night.
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Yet they left Oracle Arena nauseated by the same, maddening result – another loss to a team living in a similar competitive sphere.
The 116-112 throttling at the hands of the Rockets was one of those games that can make a frustrated coach throw up his hands in despair. The strategy generally was solid, yet the conclusion profoundly unsatisfying.
"The energy was fine,'' coach Mark Jackson said. "We competed, fought, battled. But we were careless at times.''
This was a reference to the team's nagging nuisance, the turnover. Only two teams, Houston and Philadelphia, commit turnovers at a higher rate than the Warriors. They rang up 18 more against the Rockets, leading to 22 Houston points.
Yet, in their hearts, the Warriors (13-11) know they likely could have survived that with even mediocre 3-point shooting from snipers Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. The Splash Brothers shot 11 for 29. Moreover, they made only two of their 12 3-point attempts.
When the 3-point specialists on the NBA's best 3-point shooting team fail, defeat is destined to follow. The Warriors made only six of 22 3-point shots.
Some of the difficulties faced by Curry and Thompson are attributable to the Houston defense. The Rockets (16-8) met them with platoons at the arc, Curry in particular, and barely let them breathe. Thompson shook open a few times but didn't drop in a trey until final seconds.
When the guns are silent, it's not always enough to win on the boards (56-32) and in the paint (66 points to 40). The Rockets shot 49 percent, the Warriors 48. No matter, especially with Houston draining 12 3-pointers in 29 attempts.
When Dwight Howard makes a 3-pointer, which he did, you know you're in trouble. When a notoriously bad foul shooter like Howard makes all of his free throws, which he did (hitting all seven from the line), where can you turn?
"You want him taking that shot 100 times out of 100,'' Draymond Green said of Howard's trey. "It's just that type of night. It's tough; he probably hit every free throw. It's just little things like that you just don't expect.''
Such unlikely incidents won't happen every game. They happened on Friday. That they are not likely to happen again is of no solace.
Marreese Speights came off the bench with by far his best game of the season. He was active and effective, with 16 points and nine rebounds. He was, for once, a plus player.
The rebounding was phenomenal and the paint production fantastic.
The shooting of Thompson and Curry. The turnovers. And numerous instances of slow or late help defense from the big men, which is uncharacteristic of center Andrew Bogut.
Without Andre Iguodala in the lineup, the Warriors have been distinctly mediocre. They are suffering at both ends of the court – their overall defense and their spacing on offense. They were 8-4 with Iguodala fully available. They are otherwise 5-6. The numbers tell a story that doesn't lie.