turiafWell, that was a letdown.

The Warriors’ season opener, on paper, looked like a great opportunity for Golden State to open its season with a win, setting a nice tone for the upcoming season. The Rockets, without Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest, are not a great team. Houston was playing the second night of a road back-to-back after a tough, physical loss in Portland the night before. The Warriors were unveiling their exciting new starting lineup with flash and speed (Stephen Curry! Monta Ellis), veteran savvy (Stephen Jackson!) and braun and defense (Ronny Turiaf! Andris Biedrins!). It was a sure thing. Or so it seemed.

So how did the Warriors end up losing, 108-107, at home to the Rockets?

How did it go so wrong?

The third quarter was obviously the biggest culprit. The Warriors, after a fun-to-watch first half in which they built a 10-point lead, came out flat in the third quarter. Their defense simply wasn’t there. On offense, the Warriors couldn’t hit their shots to at least try and keep up with the Rockets. Houston started the third quarter 11-for-11 from the field and ended up outscoring the Warriors, 35-19, in the third quarter. What was a 10-point halftime lead for the Warriors turned into an 87-81 deficit. The Warriors tried to close the gap in the fourth quarter, pulling within four points on a couple occasions, but couldn’t make the plays they need on offense or defense to pull off the comeback.

The problems on defense weren’t specific to the third quarter. The Rockets shot 46.5 percent from the field (40-86) and 46.2 percent on 3-pointers (12-26). Kudos to the Rockets for making their shots, but honestly, the Warriors’ defense never provided any resistance. I lost track of the number of times the Warriors failed to close on a 3-point shooter. The Rockets were getting WIDE OPEN looks at the basket. They’re professional basketball players. Chances are good that they’ll shoot that well when they don’t have a hand in their face.

The Stephen Curry-Monta Ellis backcourt is definitely a work in progress. Don’t get me wrong; I really like those two on the court together. I think Curry is an incredibly talented rookie and I think Ellis is the Warriors’ best player. But on defense, they’re going to struggle. The Rockets guards had a field day against Curry and Ellis. Aaron Brooks had 18 points and 12 assists and was in the lane constantly. Trevor Ariza was even better, with 25 points, including four 3-pointers. He had a lot of open looks at the basket.

It wasn’t just the guards, though. I was especially surprised at how Biedrins and Turiaf struggled against the Rockets’ big men, in particular Luis Scola and Carl Landry. I expected those two to be able to hold their own defensively against the Rockets’ forwards and guards, but they couldn’t. They must shoulder at least a portion of the blame for the guards’ inability to close out on the Rockets’ outside shooters because the Warriors guards and small forwards were often having to provide help defense in the post, and then were slow to rotate.

OK, that’s enough about the defense. It wasn’t good, and it was the reason the Warriors lost. They need to find a way to improve.

They have another chance on the road against the Phoenix Suns on Friday.

Here’s a link to a very good column by The Press Democrat’s Lowell Cohn, who was at Wednesday night’s game: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20091028/SPORTS/910289911/1010/SPORTS?Title=Cohn-For-openers-Warriors-show-promise-shortcomings

Here’s a link to a photo gallery from the game. The photos are by Press Democrat photographer Christopher Chung: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Site=SR&Date=20091028&Category=PHOTOSPORTS&ArtNo=102809995&Ref=PH&Profile=1010

Here’s a look at the box score from tonight’s game: http://pressdemocrat.stats.com/nba/boxscore.asp?gamecode=2009102809&home=9&vis=10&final=true