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.”

D'Antoni claps back at Draymond, Warriors after Rockets' 122-121 win

D'Antoni claps back at Draymond, Warriors after Rockets' 122-121 win

Draymond Green usually gets the last word.

Not this time.

"Somebody said we don't take it seriously on defense. Well obviously they don't take it seriously either," Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni said after the Rockets knocked off the Warriors 122-121 on Tuesday night., according to Santa Rosa Press Democrat's Phil Barber.

The jab stems from Green's comments after practice on Monday.

"You should believe that. I'm turning over a new leaf. Number 1 -- they want it to be a shootout, which is fine. But we're gonna play some defense. We score pretty well, but we're a damn good defensive team, too. So we're gonna play some defense.

"I don't know how serious they take defense with that comment, but I know they added some good defensive players," Green told reporters Monday.

Green won't get his next shot at D'Antoni and the Rockets until January 4 in Houston.

Panic at your own peril over Warriors' opening-night loss to Rockets

Panic at your own peril over Warriors' opening-night loss to Rockets

Well, there’s a nice stomp on the ring finger.

The Golden State Warriors, Team Invulnerable, are already last in the Western Conference after a 122-121 loss to the Houston Rockets, and with only 98 percent of the season left . . .

Oh, who’s kidding whom? It’s an opening night, and opening nights are often liars.

But it was a more comforting lie for the Rockets, who spent most of the night chasing Warriors leads and didn’t actually catch one until P.J. Tucker’s two free throws with 44 seconds to play survived a post-buzzer jumper by Kevin Durant. The Rockets walked off the court when referee Scott Foster properly waved off the Durant basket, and new Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta jumped about the floor like he’d just finished a fire ant-encrusted brisket.

And for a team that still has much to iron out with Chris Paul and James Harden, those free throws gave the Rockets a sense that they can run with the king – and therefore would make a fine prince regent.

True, it would be better to be the king, but nobody will take this game and declare the Warriors no longer prohibitive favorites. True, they needed an effervescent shooting night from new item on the menu Nick Young to just be close as it turned out, but one game is exactly one game and no more.

In other words, panic at your own peril.

Golden State’s defense was spotty throughout (Draymond Green got a half a coach’s per diem for his work with rookie Jordan Bell alone), and the rotations in particular were often sluggish by their standards. Giving up 34 points in the fourth quarter in a non-garbage-time situation will be a topic of discussion Wednesday, to be sure.

They were also cavalier with possessions (Kevin Durant had eight of the team’s 17 turnovers alone), and in many respects looked first-game disjointed.

Steve Kerr worked hard not to blame the ring ceremony and not because of the ravages of the China trip, or the lack of normal rest between seasons or any of the rest of it. But it is the price to be paid by the endlessly desirable – if there is money to be squeezed from this particular ATM, it will be, and those are just the conditions that prevail.

Besides, if the team’s conditioning is an issue, it should not be one by November 1. And if it is, then there are much larger concerns than getting winded. The first of those might be Green’s sore left knee, which will be examined on Wednesday but is not expected to reveal anything significant.

Then again, the Rockets did not look any sharper or different, and they skipped getting rings or Asia. They remained very Harden-centric, and Paul’s debut was hampered by a very balky left knee that reduced him in most practical ways to an adjunct to the typical Harden show.

But they were also a tough out, as they normally are. Head coach Mike D’Antoni said two days ago that his team wouldn’t stop the Warriors and that the Warriors wouldn’t stop him, and he was right both times. We said opening nights are liars, but that doesn’t mean people talking about opening nights necessarily are.

If you want the shiny bauble in the fish-shaped Jell-O mold, it is that the Warriors were light years worse in their last opener against San Antonio, when they lost, 129-100, and deserved to be beaten by more.

In addition, nothing they did or didn’t do is a difficult repair, and they don’t want to do anything at all to Young, who was easily the showiest of show-stoppers on a night that peaked very early and ended with a buzzer-beating.

One which Kerr said they richly deserved. So there’s that – with only 81 more games to fix the Western Conference’s worst team for one night.