Basketball: Rockets blow up Warriors on opening night

Rockets guard James Harden (left) had a game-high 27 points as his team delivered a statement win over Stephen Curry's Golden State Warriors.
Rockets guard James Harden (left) had a game-high 27 points as his team delivered a statement win over Stephen Curry's Golden State Warriors.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Tired-looking holders suffer shock home loss to Western rivals Houston, who recover late

OAKLAND (California) • The new-look Houston Rockets roared back to edge out National Basketball Association (NBA) champions Golden State 122-121 on Tuesday, spoiling a celebratory night at the Warriors' Oracle Arena in Oakland.

The Warriors marked the new season by handing out their championship rings and raising their 2016-17 championship banner.

Despite a furious rally by the Rockets, the Warriors thought they had won the game with a last-gasp basket from Kevin Durant, but the clock had expired a fraction of a second before the ball left Durant's hand and it was the Rockets celebrating at the end of the night.

P.J. Tucker won the game for Houston after giving the Rockets the lead, converting two free throws with 44.1 seconds left.

The Warriors, who lost just 15 times last season, also dropped their opener last year, drubbed 129-100 by the San Antonio Spurs.

"I think the right outcome happened. We deserved to lose," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "They outplayed us. We looked tired. I don't think we are in good enough shape yet to play a 48-minute game against a great team."

The Rockets were down 114-107 after a three-pointer from Warriors guard Stephen Curry with 5min 12sec left in the fourth quarter. But they would not go away, producing a late flurry that included a three-point play by Eric Gordon and Tucker's three-pointer.

TOO MUCH OF A ONE-MAN SHOW

He was our best player tonight. He was the guy bringing the energy and the life. We didn't have much energy from most of the group tonight.

As soon as he went out of the game things went south for us. We just couldn't get any traction.

STEVE KERR , Warriors coach, on how much his team missed reigning Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green, who left in the third quarter with a knee strain.

Two offensive rebounds gave the Rockets another possession in the final minute. They trailed 120-121 when Tucker was fouled and made both his free throws.

Golden State turned the ball over on their next possession. They had a chance to win but Curry missed a three-pointer with five seconds left. A deflection brought the ball to Durant, who sunk his attempt from the baseline only for a review to show it left his hand too late.

James Harden had 27 points, Gordon 24 and Tucker 20 for the Rockets. Former Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul, brought in to strengthen the Rockets, scored just four points, 11 assists and eight rebounds on his debut.

Nick Young, Golden State's new summer arrival, led the Warriors with 23 points off the bench. Curry scored 22 and Durant 20 but Draymond Green departed in the third quarter with a knee strain.

Before exiting, Green pulled down 11 rebounds and handed out 13 assists to go with nine points.

"He was our best player tonight," Kerr said. "He was the guy bringing the energy and the life. We didn't have much energy from most of the group tonight.

"As soon as he went out of the game things went south for us. We just couldn't get any traction."

The Warriors became just the fourth defending champions since 2000 to lose their opener the next season. For the Rockets, they have now recorded at least one win in Oakland in 10 of the past 14 seasons.

"The guys wanted it, and they did it," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We want to be a good defensive team, but when you play against guys like that, you better be able to score the ball. We were able to do both."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

MINNESOTA V SAN ANTONIO

Singtel TV Ch110, 8am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2017, with the headline 'Rockets blow up warriors in opener'. Print Edition | Subscribe