Thursday night's matchup between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets would have looked a whole lot different a month ago. In fact, it did look very different when they played back on Feb. 12. At that time, the Warriors boasted an exciting back court tandem of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, while the Rockets countered with up-and-comer Kyle Lowry and proven veteran shooting guard Kevin Martin. Fast forward 40 days and Monta Ellis is on the Milwaukee Bucks, Stephen Curry is on the shelf with ankle issues while the Warriors tank, Kyle Lowry can't shake a bacterial infection, and Kevin Martin has to sit after re-aggravating a pre-existing tear in the labral of his right shoulder. With Nate Robinson, Klay Thompson, Goran Dragic and Courtney Lee occupying those same spots, things didn't quite have the same feel the second time around.
On Thursday, Chandler Parsons scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds, Samuel Dalembert accomplished the only other double-double by mixing 15 points with 10 boards, and Luis Scola dumped in 18 points on 80 percent shooting as the Rockets cruised to a 109-83 home win. Dominating performances by Houston's front court allowed the Rockets to gain a 58-38 advantage on points in the paint and to hold a lead over Golden State for all but 40 seconds of game time.
Scola and Dragic blitzed the Warriors in the first quarter with pick-and-pop, pick-and-roll, pinch post sets and aggressive play in the open court. They combined for 18 points on 8-10 shooting and six assists in the opening period to help Houston jump out to an early 30-18 advantage, and the Rockets never looked back. Parsons closed the door on GSW with eight points and four rebounds in the second quarter and four points and five rebounds in the third, and he cleared the way for reserves to finish the job in garbage time during the final quarter. Everyone played well, and the team shot 47.1 percent, but Courtney Fortson ruined the perfect sweep of +/- wins with his -1 mark.
Rookie SG Thomspon struggled to convert shots on the perimeter for the Warriors and ended up with just 10 points on 4-11 shooting, while Robinson added 11 points, Richard Jefferson turned in a nice 14-point game and David Lee somehow skated by with five measly rebounds and three turnovers to go with 12 points..
In other news, the Rockets honored their 90s all-decade team without incident -- which is a departure from the last ceremony with the Warriors in the building. Then again, the Rockets aren't trying to tank, their owner didn't grab the microphone, and nobody is about to get mad with Kenny Smith, Mario Elie, Clyde Drexler, Robert Horry and Hakeem Olajuwon rekindling fond memories of the 1993-94 and 1994-95 NBA Championship squads.
Golden State dropped to 19-26 overall but is still positioned for the No. 9 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, which would mean they would relinquish the rights to the Utah Jazz -- the pick is top-seven protected in 2012. Meanwhile, the Rockets improved to 26-22 and gained possession of the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoff bracket.
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