OAKLAND -- In identifying the most revealing losses by the Warriors in the first half of this season, the collapse against Houston is a strong contender for that label.
The Warriors were at home. They led by 20 points in the third quarter. They wanted not only to beat the Rockets but also to destroy them.
And they could ... not ... finish.
Here are some of the positives and negatives gleaned from a 135-134 overtime defeat that will haunt the Warriors until at least Feb. 23, when the Rockets return to Oracle Arena:
The third-quarter malaise
The passive-aggressive contrast of the teams was striking, with the Warriors being passive and the Rockets aggressive. Houston came out firing and the defensive response of the Warriors was soft, allowing 8-of-13 shooting from deep. Draymond Green, the heart of the defense, was not as effective as we’re accustomed to seeing. By winning the quarter 39-28, the Rockets trimmed the deficit from 17 to six and, more important, found rhythm and confidence.
The Warriors of yore frequently found their junkyard dogs at halftime and unleashed them in the third quarter. The dogs on this night were tame.
Durant, again, was the default option
The Rockets were defending Kevin Durant with PJ Tucker and Danuel House. Time to eat, right? Nah. Durant through three quarters had 11 field-goal attempts, three more than Kevon Looney. When the going was good, Durant often was uninvolved. When the going got tough in the fourth quarter and OT, he suddenly was Option No. 1, being force-fed. The Rockets responded by sending extra bodies. Durant was 4-of-12 over the final 17 minutes.
Coach Steve Kerr pointed out, as we have in the past, the offense suffers when Durant doesn’t get consistent touches.
The offense in the first half
The Warriors tallied 70 points in the first half, on 63.6 percent shooting, including 46.7 percent from deep. The ball movement was on point, resulting in 18 assists. There was balanced scoring; four players had between 12 and 19 points. Ten different players put in at least four minutes.
The desire to dominate was visible, at least for 24 minutes.
The early sloppiness
Maybe the sight of the Rockets got them too hyped up. The Warriors were overthrowing passes, trying to squeeze them through tiny windows and sometime simply failing to communicate. Stephen Curry had five turnovers in 17 minutes, Draymond Green had fou in 16. The result was 12 turnovers, most of them of the live-ball variety, giving the Rockets 15 of their 53 first-half points.
Cut those numbers in half, and the Warriors lead by 25 at the half. That would have severely tested Houston’s resolve.
They made Harden put in work
James Harden racked up a triple-double, with 44 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds. His 3-ball was deadly. He made the game-winning shot in OT. Yet the Warriors decently accomplished their priority goals, which were to keep him off the foul line and make him a volume shooter. Harden jacked up 32 shots from the field -- making 40.6 percent -- and nine from the line.
Harden averaged 15 free throws over his last 10 games. Though he extended his streak of 40-point games to five, he needed 11 points in OT to do it.