Here are 10 thoughts on the game:1) Missing Stephen Curry and three rotation players, the other two stars on the Warriors roster had standout performances against a feisty Rockets team looking for their first regular season win against Golden State since 2013. After combining to shoot 8-30 the night before, Draymond Green had a Jason Kidd-esque triple double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 16 assists and Klay Thompson scored 38 points on 16-27 shooting. The duo had it going from jump as Klay hit for 17 points in the first quarter to back up his claim as the best two-guard in the league and Dray had 6 assists at the power forward position, carving up the Rockets interior defense with smart passes to cutters in the paint.2) Golden State has won 10 of the last 11 games against Houston. The two teams are so unevenly matched that saying Houston has a Warriors problem would be unfair to the word “problem.” The Dubs are dismantling the Rockets by an average of 13 points a game. If James Harden and Dwight Howard couldn’t beat a short-handed Warriors team sans Curry, I’m not sure they’ll ever get it done. They’ve lost seven regular season games in a row to Golden State.3) Andre Iguodala had an efficient 6-7 shooting night for 20 points and a game high plus-15. Even though he isn’t a fan of the award, Iguodala is the smart pick for Sixth Man of the Year thus far. With apologies to Will Barton and Ryan Anderson, Andre is the clear favorite because his ability to run the offense, play all-hands defense on the best opposing wing player, and change the tenor of the game when the Warriors are struggling. My favorite part of Warriors games is when Andre comes in to fix whatever is ailing the Warriors at the moment. Got a Lebron problem? A passing problem? A defensive issue? Yo, Andre! Take care of that mess!
4) Howard busted out the Mutombo finger wag after a block on Livingston at the rim. I don’t know what it is about his personality, but Dwight’s antics annoy me in that trying-too-hard way. Just look at this stuff.
5) Andrew Bogut only recorded a single block, but his defense in the paint was superb. He kept driver’s out of the lane and forced just enough doubt into the minds of Houston’s bigs to thwart bunnies down low. When he’s on, Bogut is like a hot goalie in the NHL: nothing is getting through that net.
6) After hitting for 21 points in a losing effort against the Mavs, Ian Clark had another strong outing with 12, 3, and 2. In the final minute of the third, and with Clint Capela switched out on him above the arc, Clark was able to leverage his shooting for a runner in the lane. He missed the shot but picked up a foul and hit both free throws. The next step in Ian’s evolution is to consistently hit that runner. Fortunately for him, he’s enrolled in Stephen Curry Floater University.
7) 2015 ended with a bang (literally) for James McAdoo. With Festus out and Marreese Speights continuing to be Marreese Speights (1-4 FG), McAdoo had nine great minutes off the bench. He forced his way into offensive rebounds, got a steal for a dunk, and in a key sequence he found Andre for an open three after pulling the rebound. If not for an elbow to the eye that required stitches, McAdoo might have had an even gaudier stat line. 2016 looks bright for the rangy 22-year-old forward/center.
8) Even had Mac not had a good game, I think it might be time to give Marreese Speight’s minutes to someone else, anyone else. Though his shooting ability was able to draw Howard out of the middle, there are just too many sequences where he doesn’t defend, or doesn’t rebound, or tries to go one-on-one when the offense dictates that he should pass the ball. In one comically bad sequence, Speights missed a shot, didn’t box out Howard for a rebound that resulted in a Corey Brewer three, and then got the ball poked out of his hands on offense that led to another Rockets bucket in transition. Speights is starting to become mo’ buckets … for the other team.
9) Funniest line of the night: After Klay hit a three in Marcus Thornton’s face, Jim Barnett said Klay’s shot “parted the hair … or what’s left of it … of Marcus Thornton.”
10) 2015 was a banner year for the Warriors. A 67-15 record. An NBA championship. An MVP. Two All-Stars not named David Lee or Latrell Sprewell. A 24-game win streak to begin the current season. Fans cheering for the team clad in yellow and blue in opposing arenas. For long-suffering Warriors fans, 2015 was inexplicable and surreal and unforgettable and fun. Lots of fun. But sometimes I still wake up and can’t believe it actually happened, any of it. Like a poor man in the midst of a million dollar dream, sometimes I watch these games where the Dubs dominate end to end and I think to myself, “this can’t be real. The Warriors are good? The Golden State Warriors?” Despite the lingering disbelief, I know the days of perpetual losing are long gone and these Warriors are the new reality. I’ve had a year to adjust to winning, but sometimes it still seems unreal. Maybe it’ll feel more natural after a second championship. Or a third. Here’s to a new year of champagne dreams and Warriors wishes.