Without Green, Iguodala, fourth quarter turns into disaster for Warriors vs Rockets

Without Green, Iguodala, fourth quarter turns into disaster for Warriors vs Rockets

OAKLAND -- The defending champion Warriors started cracking in the hours before tipoff Tuesday night and broke apart when they usually come together.

The fourth quarter was a disaster area and it cost the Warriors, as the Houston Rockets wiped out a 13-point deficit and tagged them with a 122-121 loss before a stunned sellout crowd at Oracle Arena.

So ends, as it should, the spurious notion of a rubber-stamp championship for the Warriors. A strain here and a tweak there and they found themselves on the painful end of the score.

The Warriors learned prior to the game that forward Andre Iguodala, their valuable Sixth Man, would be out nursing a strained back. They were hit with another injury, this one to Draymond Green, who was highly effective, late in the third quarter.

“He was our best player tonight,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He was the guy who was bringing the energy and the life.”

Green’s numbers -- 9 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists -- barely hint at his value in this game. Green and Iguodala are the primary defensive communicators, and Green held it down fairly well -- until he, too, was gone.

“Our communication wasn’t very good and we didn’t stick to the game plan; we gave them too many wide-open threes,” said Klay Thompson, who scored 11 first-quarter points but only 5 over the final three.

“We did a good job in the half-court of keeping them in front,” said Kevin Durant, who also scolded himself for committing eight turnovers. “But in transition we got cross-matched so many times and we just didn’t communicate well enough.”

Games aren’t always lost in the fourth, despite the frequent narrative, but this one most assuredly was. With Green in the locker room accompanied by ice, the Warriors were outscored 34-20 in the fourth quarter.

After shooting 45.8 percent through three quarters, the Rockets took it to 56 percent in the fourth, closing the game on a 13-5 run over the final 4:01.

The Warriors don’t yet know when Green and Iguodala will return, whether it’s as soon as Friday at New Orleans or a matter of weeks. Until they do, Kerr will have to resort to patching things together.

Problem is, aside from the scoring of Nick Young (23 points on 8-of-9 shooting, including 6-of-7 from deep) and Jordan Bell (8 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 12 minutes), the bench did not distinguish itself.

That was particularly true on defense, which happen to be where Iguodala and Green make their greatest impact. The reserves accounted for 13 of the 25 fouls called on the Warriors.

“We’ve got to be better,” Durant said. “We’ve got to be better, and we’re looking forward to practice Wednesday.”

Warriors will feel Iguodala's absence Tuesday vs Rockets, perhaps beyond

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AP

Warriors will feel Iguodala's absence Tuesday vs Rockets, perhaps beyond

OAKLAND -- We don’t know how severe Andre Iguodala’s back strain is, only that it is serious enough to force the veteran forward to the sideline for the season opener.

For a game he definitely wanted to play.

“It doesn’t make sense to play him,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Tuesday, two hours before tipoff of the opening-night game against the Houston Rockets.

Iguodala’s absence will hurt the Warriors not only against the Rockets but also anybody else, for as long as he is unable to take the floor. Back problems have a way of choosing when they go away. Until then, Iguodala is at its mercy.

Losing Iguodala for this game means, first and foremost, that Klay Thompson will be mostly alone in chasing James Harden. It’s an important defensive assignment typically shared by Thompson and Iguodala.

Furthermore, the Rockets’ fast-paced offense is designed to generate constant pressure. They led the NBA last season in 3-point shots, made and attempted, and they stretch the floor as well as any team in the league, including the Warriors.

Iguodala’s intellect, defensive instincts and superior anticipation are most valuable against such teams as Houston. Draymond Green and Iguodala can wrecking offenses as well as any two players in the league, their quick hands causing havoc that is one of the keys to the Warriors playing championship-level defense.

“Andre is as smart a defensive player as I’ve ever seen,” Kerr said. “Draymond is incredibly smart, too. Scottie Pippen (Kerr’s former teammate with the Bulls) was so brilliant. Andre reminds me a lot of Scottie in terms of quarterbacking the defense and disrupting plays before they happen, anticipating where people are going to be, where the ball is going to be.

“So Andre is critical to our defense. “

For at least one night, and maybe more, Green will have to turn to another sidekick when Kerr unleashes the “Death Lineup” without Iguodala.

Shaun Livingston and Nick Young can deliver some of what Iguodala provides on offense.

Thompson can compensate for some of the lost offense, but he’ll have his hands full with Harden. Though Kerr said Pat McCaw would fill some of the minutes lost with Iguodala, the coach can’t reasonably expect McCaw to physically cope with Harden, a crafty veteran who also is 40 pounds heavier.

So let’s see what happens when the Rockets come down the floor with three or four players, all capable of launching from deep, scattering to get to their spots.

“It’ll be a challenge for us to play without (Iguodala) tonight against one of the best offensive teams in the league,” Kerr said.

The coach believes Iguodala will be ready for the next game, Friday in New Orleans. The Warriors, for the sake of their defense, can only hope so.

Gameday: Iguodala out for Warriors' season opener vs Rockets

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USATI

Gameday: Iguodala out for Warriors' season opener vs Rockets

Defense of their second NBA title in three seasons begins in earnest Tuesday night, when the Warriors invite the reconfigured Houston Rockets into Oracle Arena.

There will be a pregame ceremony in which the Warriors will receive their championship rings.

The Warriors, who believe the additions of Nick Young and Omri Casspi will result in improved the bench production, are coming off a season in which they led the NBA in scoring offense, with the Rockets finishing second.

Houston made considerably more adjustments over the summer, acquiring perennial All-Star point guard Chris Paul and rugged forward PJ Tucker.

BETTING LINE

Warriors by 9.5

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Stephen Curry vs. Chris Paul: These two veterans, both headed for the Hall of Fame, have been at war for the better part of a decade, with Curry gaining in decided edge in recent years. That was when Paul was the leader of the once-hated Los Angeles Clippers. With Paul moving to Houston, it will be interesting to see if a change in scenery means a different type of battle. The winner likely decides the outcome.

Klay Thompson vs. James Harden: Familiar from their days as prep stars in Southern California, these two, by most accounts, are the top two shooting guards in the league. Though Harden assumed the point role last season, he’ll have greater latitude to generate his own shot now that Paul is on board.

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: F Omri Casspi (R ankle sprain) is listed as probable. F Andre Iguodala (back strain) is listed as out.

Rockets: No injuries listed.

RECENT SERIES HISTORY

The Warriors won three of four meetings last season and have won 12 of the last 15 regular-season meetings overall. They also have won eight of the last 10 meetings in the postseason.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

THE SCOREBOARD: Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni implies this will be a shootout. Warriors forward Draymond Green responds by saying one team (the Warriors) plays defense. It’s conceivable the teams could combine for 75 3-point attempts. The scoreboard could blow out before the final buzzer.

THE NEW GUYS: Because he is in constant motion and feels the angles, Casspi seems to be a good fit for the Warriors offense. Young is coming along, but admits he’s still learning the nuances of the offense and feeling out his teammates. It may not be fair to expect much in Game 1, but their work is sure to be examined.

THE POMP: There is the celebration of a championship, the ceremony in which rings (and the ultra-elaborate boxes) will be presented, and the adoration of a sellout crowd. The Warriors are becoming veterans at being celebrities, but what happens when emotions are part of the equation?

QUOTABLE

“I saw what happened last year when San Antonio just drilled us. Saw that we were able to recover. So whatever happens, it’s just one game.” --Warriors GM Bob Myers on opening night nerves