SAN FRANCISCO – On a cold and rainy night, the Warriors made a splash in cruising to their 10th straight home win, drubbing the Houston Rockets 120-101.
With Klay Thompson resting on a back-to-back night, guard Jordan Poole started alongside Stephen Curry in the backcourt. The duo lit up the Rockets’ defense, combining for 51 points on 18-35 shooting.
Poole has flourished as of late, pouring in 30 points against the Chicago Bulls on Friday night. And tonight, he continued right where he left off. The budding guard went 5-8 from deep and dazzled fans with his shifty style of play, dishing out a particularly impressive no-look pass to Jonathan Kuminga for the dunk in the second quarter.
“It was a phenomenal first 18 minutes. I thought that was maybe the best stretch we’ve had all year to start the game,” said Golden State’s head coach Steve Kerr.
While Poole and Curry dominated the first half, it was another Warrior who took up the mantle after halftime.
Andrew Wiggins, whose career renaissance of sorts in the Bay Area, continued to prove why he plays such a critical role on Kerr’s squad. Wiggins notched a game-high and season-high 36 points. When he wasn’t crashing the offensive glass, pressing up on defense, or diving for loose balls, Wiggins was busy firing away from behind the arc.
The former No. 1 overall pick knocked in a career-high eight 3-pointers, including a scorching stretch in the third quarter when he knocked down triples on three consecutive possessions.
“I felt like I was just floating. You know my shot felt good,” Wiggins said. “My teammates, you know, did a great job finding me and getting me open shots and good looks, so it felt good.”
With Wiggins finding his stroke, Golden State played the style of basketball they’ve patented: free-flowing, fast and finding open teammates through a flurry of screens and quick passes. The Warriors, who lead the NBA in assists per game, tallied 34 tonight and all five starters finished with a positive plus-minus.
“It’s a fun way to play, because you’re creating good shots and that avalanche can kind of come out of nowhere,” said Curry.
On the other hand, Houston ran an isolation offense around guard Jalen Green, allowing Golden State to jump out to an 18-point lead just halfway through the first quarter.
And they never looked back, the Warriors never trailed in Saturday’s contest, but an uncharacteristic start to the fourth quarter began to make the fans uneasy.
Wiggins efforts kept Golden State rolling in the driver’s seat, but when Curry took to the bench, the second unit couldn’t keep up. The Rockets slowly began to find itself back in the game and it looked possible Houston’s head coach Stephen Silas’ young team might avoid their eighth straight loss to the Warriors.
Kevin Porter Jr. led a late Rockets rally and cut what was once a 25-point lead to just four points midway through the fourth quarter.
“That’s our biggest challenge right now, is trying to maintain our focus long enough to not give up leads and allow teams back in,” Kerr said. “And I thought that’s what happened tonight.”
That’s when Kerr turned to what clicked early – bringing in Curry and Wiggins– to finish late. On his first touch after checking back into the game, Curry struck from downtown. That was followed by a triple from Moses Moody, and so the avalanche resumed.
In a sequence that appeared to capture all that fueled Golden State’s victory, Curry crossed over Porter Jr. before nailing a step-back three. On the next possession, Curry found Wiggins, who rattled home the dagger, with his foot on the line, Wiggins was inches away from setting a new career-high for three-pointers made.
“You don’t know when your shots are going to really come and when he gets hot, it’s just fun,” said Curry. “Because he just cracks that Wiggs smile that we all love and it’s a big part of what we do.”
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