Every NBA game should be as fun as Warriors-Rockets
We can't wait until the Jan. 20 rematch
By Dieter Kurtenbach
The Warriors and Rockets played what was by far the most entertaining game of the young NBA season Thursday -- a no-brakes, end-to-end, 132-127 double-overtime shootout that had the intensity of a playoff game but a quarter of the pretense.
Houston won the game, but the real winner was anyone who watched it. (And anyone who rolled their eyes at how corny that line was.)
All NBA games could be that fun. All NBA games should be that fun. And perhaps, if the Warriors do what they're expected to do this year and the Rockets come the closest to beating them, all NBA games will be that fun.
We can only hope.
In the meantime, it's important to appreciate just how lit Thursday night's game at Oracle Arena was.
It was a cacophony of athleticism and three-point shots between the NBA's main villains -- the preposterously talented Warriors -- and the league's other villain -- professional beard-grower, flopper, and point-getter James Harden -- and his four-out All-Stars.
We knew exactly what both teams would try to do in the game, and, bless both squads, unless they were going to make an incredible defensive play, they more or less stayed out of each others' way.
The Warriors, blessed with three of the greatest shooters who ever lived (all are in the Top 10 and that's not debatable) did exactly what they've done all season -- put up a lot of shots -- most of them open -- with Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Stephen Curry.
The Rockets, who have caught the spirit of the post-merger NBA under new head coach Mike D'Antoni, did what they have done all season -- play off the NBA's MVP through the first fifth of the campaign (don't @ me), Harden, a one-time ballstopper who has used his dribble-drive accumen and incredible court vision to become a renaissance point guard.
Durant had 39 points, Curry scored 28, and Thompson had 15 (on 20 percent shooting).
Harden had a massive triple-double with 29 points, 15 rebounds, and 13 assists -- a virtuoso performance.
The Bearded One's assists went through four Warriors defenders to spot-up shooters on the perimeter like Ryan Anderson -- a 6-foot-10 big man who had as many 3-pointers made as rebounds Thursday, because that's how things work in the future -- and to under-the-basket big men like Montrezl Harrell, who had himself a damn game with 13 points, a big block, and a possible manslaughter charge off the bench.
This isn't to say there wasn't defense in the game -- there was: the spectacular kind.
Who cares about contested jumpers? On a late December night, give me awesome blocks and steals. This game doesn't really mean anything -- why not make it as enjoyable as possible?
Take, for instance, this end-to-end series by Durant that might as well be the postcard of the game -- it was perfectly indicative of what happened in Oakland Thursday night, so long as you don't consider who won the contest -- a massive block, followed by jailbreak transition, a wicked pass, and a play at the rim.
It's magnificent stuff and both teams were doing it all night long.
Is this reckless abandon style of play winning basketball? Well, it was for the Rockets Thursday, but to answer the question I asked myself: probably not. The Warriors would be foolish to play this loose in the playoffs if they want to win.
(I'm not sure if the Rockets have a tightened-up mode to go to, so we can expect plenty more of this from their side.)
But this matchup needs to be a playoff series -- preferably an early-round one, so the pressure of the moment doesn't stifle either team's basketball creativity with expectations of help-side defense or pace control.
I'm not sure the public would survive a possible seven-game showdown between these two squads -- we might even get a 300 possession game in that mix -- but after Thursday night, we should all be willing to give it a try.