NBA on March 13: The Warriors finally defeat the Rockets without KD
Li Xiang

The Golden State Warriors (GSW) avoided being swept by the Houston Rockets as they claimed a victory of 106-104 at the Toyota Center on Wednesday and put an end to their opponent's nine game win streak.

This is what GSW need Cousins for

DeMarcus Cousins #0 of the Golden State Warriors shoots in the game they win against the Houston Rockets 106-104 at the Oracle Arena, March 13. /VCG Photo

DeMarcus Cousins #0 of the Golden State Warriors shoots in the game they win against the Houston Rockets 106-104 at the Oracle Arena, March 13. /VCG Photo

Klay Thompson scored the court's high of 30 points for Golden State and the five three-pointers he sank brought him the seventh consecutive season of at least 200 shots from the 3-pt line. DeMarcus Cousins dropped a season high of 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists while Stephen Curry got 24 points. Again, none of the other players scored double-digit points and Kevin Durant missed the game.

James Harden though managed to put down 29 points and 10 assists, he was struggling from the 3-pt line and made only two shots there. Chris Paul scored 24 points and Eric Gordon had 17. Clint Capela took a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds. Like GSW, they had no one from the bench reaching 10 points, either.

Chris Paul of the Rockets handles the ball in the game against the Warriors, March 13. /VCG Photo

Chris Paul of the Rockets handles the ball in the game against the Warriors, March 13. /VCG Photo

Before Wednesday's game, the Warriors already tried three different ways to lose to the Rockets: On November 15, 2018, the defending champion lost 107-86 in Houston without Curry; then on January 3, GSW witnessed Harden give a crazy performance that helped the Rockets win again 135-134 at the Oracle Arena without Paul in the game; the last time the two teams played was still in Oakland on February 23 and the Warriors lost for the third time in a row 118-112 though Harden sat on the bench because of injuries.

Everyone on the team knew this had to stop.

This time, the Warriors started the game with the right attitude. In defense, they put Cousins in the paint to protect the rim and tried their best not to double team anyone so Houston's Rockets could not have easy open shots around the 3-pt line. Thanks to this, the Rockets only delivered 18 assists in total in the game. Though they were the league's biggest fan of isolation play in offense, Harden and Paul could not win the game without help from their teammates.

Kevon Rooney #5 of the Warriors dunks to get second-chance points in the game against the Rockets, March 13. /VCG Photo

Kevon Rooney #5 of the Warriors dunks to get second-chance points in the game against the Rockets, March 13. /VCG Photo

In offense, GSW did not have much that was new but did two things right. First, better rebounding. Though Houston had Capela, who could grab an average of 12.5 rebounds per game and several good low-block defenders like P.J. Tucker and Harden, it did not change the fact that they were the third-worst rebounding team in the league this season. The Warriors on Wednesday got 44 rebounds, 15 more than the Rockets' 31. Kevon Rooney kept going for offensive rebounds not only made up his limited contribution to offense, but also put the oppnent's defense under extra pressure.

Second, Cousins played the best game of his since he joined Golden State. Though the torn left Achilles hurt his explosiveness, Boogie could still give any team a headache with his size and comprehensive techniques in offense, as long as he stayed on the court long enough. In the first half, the Warriors gave Cousins a bigger role as an inside post while the rest of the team kept moving so the Rockets could not double team him. Thanks to this, though Cousins only scored seven points, he delivered six assists.

Cousins #0 of the Warriors shoots a three-pointer in the game against the Rockets, March 13. /VCG Photo

Cousins #0 of the Warriors shoots a three-pointer in the game against the Rockets, March 13. /VCG Photo

As he gradually got back the feeling in offense, Cousins showed the fans why he is one of the league's best centers before the injury. He could handle the ball and penetrated from the 3-pt line, posted up in the low bloc and shoot in the middle-range as well as from 3-pt line. Besides scoring 10 points in both the third and the fourth quarter, Boogie's damage to Houston's weak inside defense contributed more than just scoring to GSW's offense.

The Warriors' victory also came from mistakes by the Rockets. Though it's obvious that both Harden and Paul tried to find Cousins using teammate's pick in offense, they seemed to forget their biggest weapon against the slow-moving big guy, perimeter shot. As the best small-size mismatch player in today's NBA, Paul always chose to pass the ball away when he faced Cousins who was at least two big steps away from him-long enough for Paul even adjust himself before shooting.

James Harden #13 of the Rockets shoots in the game against the Warriors, March 13. /VCG Photo

James Harden #13 of the Rockets shoots in the game against the Warriors, March 13. /VCG Photo

As for Harden, instead of working in the diddle-range, he chose to penetrate, which was a bad call. It's true that Cousins was slow but it's also difficult for anyone to put the ball into the basket when a giant like Boogie stood in front of you raising his arms.

Moreover, this was not the first game when Harden struggled in offense. After the 2019 NBA All-Star Game, Harden could still get 33.1 points per game, but his field goal rate dropped to 40.7 percent and 3-pt rate was the worse 25.2 percent while he shot an average of 12.3 times from the 3-pt line. Furthermore, this was the 41st game for Harden to miss at least 10 three-pointers, which was the most in the NBA history. It surely felt good when the Rockets could rain three-pointers to win games, but let's not forget it's also this obsession with 3-pt shots that led to their elimination from the Western Conference Finals last season.

Other games on Wednesday included: (away teams come first)

Orlando Magic 90-100 Washington Wizards

Brooklyn Nets 96-108 Oklahoma City Thunder

Detroit Pistons 74-108 Miami Heat

Memphis Grizzlies 111-132 Atlanta Hawks

Utah Jazz 114-97 Phoenix Suns