I have mixed emotions about the Warriors’ season-opening 132-128 win against the Houston Rockets.
Emotion No. 1: Relieved
I’m glad the Warriors got a win. The Rockets are a good team, even though they were playing the second night of a back-to-back and without Yao Ming. The Warriors had no excuses if they had lost this game, so it’s good that they held on for the victory.
Emotion No. 2: Excited
There were a lot of good things to take away from this game. Other than the missed free throws late that made things more interesting than they should have been, Monta Ellis played a spectacular basketball game. He tied his career high with 46 points, did it efficiently (18 for 24 FG, 9-12 FT) and unlike last season, the Warriors weren’t a better team without him. His plus-minus was +9, on par with the rest of the starting lineup.
Stephen Curry is obviously struggling with his ankle, but he turned it on in the third quarter and ended up playing a very good game (25 points, 11 assists, 9-16 FG, 3-6 3-pointers, 4-4 FT).
David Lee was a bundle of talented energy, going for 17 points, 15 rebounds and six assists (he’s so underrated as a passing big man).
Dorell Wright was good and Andris Biedrins was more like the player he was two seasons ago than last season, which is a very good thing. All told, the starting lineup looked great.
There’s a lot to like about this team. I loved that the Warriors outrebounded the Rockets (45-39). How many times did that happen last season? Almost never. Thank you, Lee and Biedrins. And the Warriors really took care of the ball (only 12 turnovers).
Emotion No. 3: Frustration
The bench is a major weakness. I expect Reggie Williams to play better this season than he did last night. Rodney Carney should be an end-of-the-bench player, not a regular in the rotation. And Brandan Wright, other than a short stretch of good defense late in the game, didn’t contribute much. Hopefully, this bench finds an identity and can do a better job of not giving leads away when they’re on the court. But after one game, they weren’t good.
The defense, which looked like it might be showing signs of life during the preseason, was back to what we are accustomed to from the Warriors. The team did a good job closing out on outside shooters, a nice new development, but that’s about it. The Rockets, who were playing the second night of a back-to-back, met very little resistance in running their offense. They ended up shooting 47.1 percent from the field, but they were much better than that for most of the game.
For everything that Lee did right on offense, his defense was really poor. Luis Scola is a nice player, but Lee made him look like a hybrid between Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. He torched Lee for 36 points and 16 rebounds. The Warriors guards had a hard time against Rockets guard Kevin Martin, who scored 28 points. You can complain about his frequent trips to the free-throw line if you want, but he earned those free throws because the Warriors lack defensive fundamentals and suffer too many lapses on defense.
A nice win. A good start to the season. Is it too much, though, to ask for some defense?