Shaun Livingston received the ball from a side inbounds and found Stephen Curry for a wide-open 3 that clanked off the back rim. Players fought for the rebound, and it was inadvertently tipped to Kevin Durant, who drained a midrange baseline jumper. The crowd erupted with joy.
Players begin hugging Durant, but replay showed that he didn’t get the shot off cleanly before time expired. With that, the Rockets stepped inside Oracle Arena and ruined the Warriors’ championship ring ceremony evening by beating the defending champs 122-121.
“I thought it had a chance, but I knew it was a little late,” Durant admitted. “I knew it was cutting it close.”
Rockets star James Harden posted 27 points, 6 rebounds and 10 assists. Eric Gordon supplied 24 points off the bench for the Rockets, as their reserve unit topped the Warriors’ 58-48. Curry ended with 22 points and Durant had 20 points.
Golden State (0-1) led for much of the game and carried a lead of 17 at one point. Warriors coach Steve Kerr called attention to his team’s conditioning.
“I just thought we looked tired,” he said. “I don’t think we are in good enough shape yet to play a 48-minute game against a great team.”
Some of the players didn’t quite agree with that assessment.
“Nah, I wouldn’t say that,” Durant said of the team lacking conditioning. “The energy in the building was really, really high and our adrenaline was pumping way before the game. We kind of burned out a little bit, but I think overall, our conditioning is pretty good. We definitely can get better, but it was just a tough loss.”
Said Curry: “We’re not in playoff shape at all, but I think we competed pretty hard. There were probably four possessions on the defensive end where we didn’t rotate and gave guys like an eternity to shoot wide-open 3s. And that’s not characteristic of us, so you got to point to something that was an issue with that. Maybe we were a little gassed in those particular moments, but I think over the course of 48 minutes, we had a lot of energy, played with a lot of determination down the stretch and just tried to get some stops and figure it out. But if [conditioning] is something that’s a concern, I’m sure we’ll figure it out as we go along.”
Houston (1-0) outscored Golden State 34-20 in the fourth quarter.
“We’re not going to do much better than that,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “The guys wanted it, and they did it. It worked out this time.”
Toward the end of the quarter, the All-Star power forward was fouled on a running jumper and landed awkwardly. He immediately began hobbling and rubbing his left knee. When the quarter buzzer sounded, he retreated to the locker room, where he was diagnosed with the strain.
Green had 9 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists in 28 minutes.
“He was our best player tonight,” Kerr said. “He was the guy who was bringing the energy and the life. We didn’t have much energy from most of our group tonight. … When you are lacking conditioning, like we are right now, you have to have high-energy guys out there. As soon as he went out of the game, things went south for us. We just couldn’t get any traction.”
“Somebody said we don’t take it seriously on defense. Well, obviously they don’t take it seriously either,” D’Antoni said, referring to Green’s comments on wanting to see if the Rockets are committed to playing at a high level on that side of the ball.
Houston feels it now has the personnel to match up with Golden State should the teams meet in the playoffs.
“I don’t want to overreact to one game,” Curry said. “I like our chances as we go forward to figure it out.”
The Warriors fell on opening night last season at home to the Spurs. They were clobbered by 29 points.
“Coach joked that we lost by 30 or something, 25 last year. Only one this year. So, that’s improvement,” Curry said.
It’s only one of 82 games, but it was clear that Kerr wasn’t pleased with the way the Warriors lost. He said they got what they earned.
“I think the right outcome happened,” Kerr said. “We deserved to lose. They outplayed us. We had control of that game most of the way. It never felt like we were executing or defending at a high level.”