Warriors blast Rockets with fiery fourth quarter

Be very, very quiet. The Warriors are hunting MVP contenders.

For the third time in three games, the Warriors (62-14) have matched up with a frontrunner for the MVP award, and all three times, the Warriors completely torpedoed their resume.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Warriors’ locker room at Oracle Arena.

Not only did they beat the Rockets (51-25) 107-98, but they held James Harden to just 17 points on 4-of-18 shooting and forced him into six turnovers.

And just three days ago they stifled Harden again, as he committed six turnovers and shot an awful 5-of-20.

The difficulty of that is not lost on Steve Kerr:

“He might be the hardest player to guard in the entire league. If not the hardest he’s in the top few because of the all the problems that he presents you as a point guard. All you can do is do your best to try and keep him off balanced as best you can.”

Oh, and in between those games, the Warriors forced Kawhi Leonard into a 7-of-20 shooting night and five turnovers. And 11 days ago when they played Mr. triple-double Russell Westbrook, a familiar line of 4-of-16 shooting — and five turnovers.

And Stephen Curry definitely gets up for those type of matchups:

“When you have an opportunity to play these teams that you might see later on you want to leave a good memory. We’re focused on ourselves and how we’re playing but this was a good test for us.”

It’s been a rough stretch for MVP candidates, but not reigning MVPs. Curry came in averaging 27.3 points, 10.3 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 3.3 steals continued his hot streak dropping in 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists after finishing the first half just 2-of-9 from the field.

Curry wasn’t alone in having an ugly start, as Golden State struggled out the gate, rushing early shots, forcing passes and playing with a general malaise.

Kerr said it had the feeling of a letdown game, especially early:

“We been on this great run and this great two-game road trip and I think we kind of just let our guard down a little bit.”

Everybody except JaVale McGee, who was the team’s leading scorer at halftime with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting in just five minutes. And though the springy center finished with exactly that same amount of points, he would add five blocked shots to help spark the Warriors’ comeback win.

Something to watch moving forward is that the Rockets are not a matchup for Zaza Pachulia, now but especially in the playoffs. Steve Kerr knows this, and that’s why we’ve seen an excess of James Michael McAdoo in these matchups with the Rockets.

Come playoff time we’ll find out how much Kerr is willing to ride or die with Pachulia. He got 12 minutes tonight despite being embarrassed on both offense and defense. The Rockets gave him the anti-Tony Allen treatment by putting their worst defender — Harden — on him whenever he was on the court.

That put the Warriors in a tough spot. Attack the matchup, which is less than ideal when your center is known to struggle with open layups, let alone guarded ones. Or, ignore him in the post, and let Harden rest and hide the weakest part of his game.

Draymond Green said that all those cross-matches kind of threw the team early:

“It was weird. That was one we had never seen before. Like we gave up a layup to Trevor Ariza because that was my man and we were running back down the floor and I’m talking to Steph like, ‘yo you see this?’ But once we started moving the mall we started to pick it apart.”

But really it’s not a problem if they just let Green loose. Green has been an absolute monster lately and completely stoned any and all attempts from the Rockets in the last five minutes. He finished with three blocks to go along with his six rebounds and eight assists.

Kerr didn’t hold back in his praise of Green after the game:

“His defense is really what makes him who he is. I think he’s the best defensive player in the league and I thought he showed that tonight.”

Nevermind his offensive stats, the Warriors are damn near unbeatable when Green in locked in defensively, and he’s been that way for the last month or so. Just wait until Kevin Durant is back patrolling the paint next to him. It’s almost unfair.

What else is unfair is that Curry may have snuck himself into the MVP race just from dominating these matchups recently and he has one more left. I’d be worried if I was John Wall.

Up Next

The Warriors conclude their five-game streak of facing playoff teams when the Washington Wizards visit Oracle Sunday. The once red-hot Wizards are just 5-5 over their last 10 games and are just a half-game ahead of the Toronto Raptors for the No. 3 seed out East.

Notes

Patrick McCaw (leg cramps) and Kevon Looney (hip strain) both missed the game Friday. McCaw was a late scratch whereas Looney has now missed two straight games. The injury is particularly concerning for Looney who hasn’t been able to fully shake off his hip injuries after having surgery on both hips each of the last two seasons. … Draymond continued adding to his Defensive Player of the Year highlight reel with 3 blocks and a steal. With those numbers he becomes the first player in Warriors franchise history to have 150 steals and 100 blocks in the same season. He’s the 13th player in the history of the NBA to post those totals, the last time came in 2008-09 by Dwyane Wade. …Curry entered the game with a streak of four straight games with 20 points and 10 assists, which matched his career best.


Curtis Uemura is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @CUemura on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.