The Golden State Warriors beat the Houston Rockets 121-108 on Monday, pulling away in the fourth quarter to avoid a 12th consecutive road loss. Let’s dive into three reactions—with related film, numbers and analysis—from the defending champions’ first win away from Chase Center since January 30th.
Reactions from Warriors’ rare road win over Rockets
Golden State helped by (some) long-range regression
Golden State’s been dealt a rough hand when it comes to three-point shooting on the road all season. The Warriors definitely bear some culpability for lagging intensity and frequent defensive breakdowns, but opponents’ 41.3% accuracy from long-range—second-worst in basketball to the tanking San Antonio Spurs, per Cleaning the Glass—is largely explained by shooting luck. The same can be said for their own recent struggles from deep entering Monday’s action.
The Atlanta Hawks outscored the Dubs by 15 points on triples last Friday, then the Memphis Grizzlies did the same 24 hours later. Golden State shot a combined 32% from three in those losses, with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson going 10-of-37. The Warriors, not to mention the Splash Brothers, were due for some regression on threes against the Rockets. It came, but not in the flood of splashed triples many expected coming into the game.
Golden State shot 17-of-48 from beyond the arc compared to Houston’s ugly 10-of-36. Curry and Thompson totaled for 10-of-28 shooting on long balls, right in line with the Warriors’ team-wide mark just below league average. That anticipated regression came in the Rockets’ 27.8% shooting, helping Golden State outscore them by 15 on triples—absolutely pivotal in a sloppy game filled with turnovers and transition play.
Curry and Thompson both made hay at the rim against Houston, driving close-outs and turning the corner in pick-and-roll for tough finishes. The Warriors exploited the Rockets’ top-locking and switching by going backdoor and slipping screens for layups from the opening tip, too. Golden State lost the points in paint battle 54-50, but that number is six more than the team’s bottom-three season-long average.
The Dubs don’t finally get off the road snide on Monday unless they commit to getting to the basket. But out-shooting the other team from three will always be their biggest harbinger, even on nights Curry, Thompson and company aren’t quite catching fire.
Sloppy turnovers almost doom the Warriors
Golden State led 111-99 when Curry walked the ball past halfcourt with 3:23 left, ready to salt away a much-needed victory against one of the league’s youngest, most inexperienced teams. The Dubs had to fight to get that double-digit edge, too. The game was tied when Curry exited midway through the third quarter after Jordan Poole fell on his left leg, and they led 84-80 when he finally returned, somewhat hobbled, at the start of the final stanza.
Instead of prioritizing ball security to keep the Rockets from making one last surge, though, Curry threw this pass to Thompson, giving Tari Eason a runout dunk and forcing an exasperated Kerr to call timeout.
Curry’s hair-grabbing turnover, ill-timed as it was, didn’t even register as surprising. The Dubs were throwing the ball all over Toyota Center pretty much from start to finish on Monday. The careless nature of their miscues made it seem like the Warriors committed far more than 18 turnovers.
Almost no one who took the floor for Golden State was immune from throwing lazy, looping, telegraphed passes.
It doesn’t take a film expert to break down those mind-numbing turnovers.
The Warriors’ offensive approach was just far, far too casual at times in Houston, yielding live-ball turnover after live-ball turnover for an athletic team that struggles in the halfcourt on both sides of the ball. Golden State produced great looks when it wasn’t throwing the ball to the Rockets, who scored 25 points off turnovers and in transition, evidence of how often they got the chance to play in the open floor.
The Warriors’ saving grace? Houston wasn’t exactly airtight with the ball, either. Golden State forced 17 turnovers and slightly outscored the Rockets in fast break points and points off turnovers, huge in a game its offensive execution was downright vexing.
Anthony Lamb, earning his spot
In an ideal world, Golden State’s 15th and final player on the full-time roster wouldn’t be pressed into action when it matters most. Lamb is likely the 12th or 13th player in the rotation when the Dubs are at full-strength. But Andre Iguodala’s career might be over, Gary Payton II is still ramping up toward an unknown return date and Andrew Wiggins’ status remains in flux.
What if Lamb needs to play high-leverage minutes in the postseason? At the very least, Kerr and the Warriors’ coaching staff can take solace from knowing he’ll do enough little things on both ends to keep the machine running smoothly.
Watch Lamb on the fourth-quarter defensive possession below, switching onto the ball three separate times—and in different ways—before Josh Christopher snakes around Draymond Green for a tough, floating finger roll. Talk about process over results.
That was just more of the same from Lamb against the Rockets.
Look how capably he defends both Kevin Porter Jr. and Jabari Smith Jr. on these back-to-back defensive trips from late in the third quarter.
Lamb played 17 minutes off the bench in Monday’s game, the vast majority of which came during his lone stint in the second half. He was on the court from the 5:17 mark of the third quarter to 4:35 mark of the fourth, finding ways to impact the game offensive and defensively even when not directly involved in the action.
This is Curry’s off-ball movement and re-location mastery at play more than anything else, but he doesn’t get that sliver of space to launch a corner three unless Lamb steps in for a random screen as he sprints the baseline.
Lamb takes out two defenders on this routine flare for Thompson, giving him what amounts to a practice shot.
Lamb has obvious deficiencies. It might be charitable to call him an above-average switch defender, he sometimes over-helps off the ball and is best limited to three dribbles offensively. Physical as he is and tough as he plays, Lamb’s lack of elite size and athleticism for a big wing is bound to be exploited at times.
Even so, Lamb continues to give the Warriors everything they could realistically hope from a deep bench wing on a minimum contract—crucial with Wiggins and Payton still sidelined.