SAN FRANCISCO -- The ultra-young Houston Rockets have enough talent to scare any opponent, and on Sunday their gifts were on display during the stretch of the game when the Warriors are at their sleepiest.
That would be the second quarter, in which the Warriors outscored their opponent only twice through the first eight games. The five-point lead they held after the first quarter had turned into four-point deficit less than six minutes into the second. They needed a wake-up call, and so did their sellout crowd at Chase Center.
They were up by two (58-57) with 2:29 left in the half when alarms and sirens started going off, courtesy of Otto Porter Jr.
A 3-pointer with 1:45 left in the half. A rebound with 1:30 left, with another triple four seconds later. A steal with 1:09 left. Another triple with 1:05 left. Consider this the prelude to a 120-107 victory.
“It’s huge,” Jordan Poole said of Porter’s one-man rally. “Otto is ... we’re so lucky to have him. He’s a really big threat from the 3-point line and he’s a mismatch for a lot of fours and fives that guard him, especially on the offensive end. Being able to get him going early and seeing him catch a rhythm the way he did was huge.”
Porter’s 40-second blast gave the Warriors their biggest lead of the half, 69-59, and provided all the alarms and sirens they would need.
“That stretch in the second quarter had the bench jumping up and down, excited,” coach Steve Kerr said.
“Otto and Beli (Nemanja Bjelica) have given us a totally different dimension from anything we’ve had since I’ve been here. Just having two bigs who can shoot 3s like that really opens up the floor.”
Bjelica is shooting 55.5 percent (10-of-18) from deep, and Porter is at 46.7 (14-of-30). Beli scored all nine of his points in the third quarter, when the Warriors pulled away. Porter scored 10 of his 15 points in 40 crucial seconds to close the half.
Coaches often talk about the importance of closing quarters well and closing the half really well. It can provide a boost that has a carryover effect. In this instance, getting 10 points from Porter in 40 seconds pumped life into the arena and reminded his teammates that beating even an immature team requires immense effort.
“I hit that one in the corner and was just playing good offense,” said Porter, who scored 12 of his 15 points the second quarter. “We got some stops. We got some key turnovers, some steals and -- we’re on defense creates offense -- I was able to get a few looks and knock it down.”
Porter’s 5-of-6 shooting from distance, along with his team-high nine rebounds, spoke to his efficiency. He added a couple steals and a blocked shot in his 18 minutes. Having a reserve with that kind of shooting, along with the rest of his game, is utterly extravagant when wrapped in a veteran’s-minimum salary package.
On this night, Porter was essential.
“We always preach, ‘Finish in the quarter,’” he said. “Going into halftime, that was a big moment in the game where the energy shifted towards us. Like Coach said, we’ve just got to continue to find ways to finish quarters.”
The Warriors avoided losing a game they know they should win. And when their customary second-quarter blues were getting them down, Porter needed only a few seconds to pick them up.