Rockets rally to spoil defending champion Warriors return
OAKLAND, California — Kevin Durant’s baseline jumper swished through the net just barely too late, and the Houston Rockets rallied in the fourth to beat Golden State 122-121 Tuesday on the night the Warriors received their championship rings.
The Warriors had one last chance with 10.6 seconds left and Durant came up with the ball after Stephen Curry had missed. Durant and the Warriors thought they’d won and confetti began to fall when the two remaining officials — the third got hurt in the fourth quarter — reviewed the play and said Durant’s shot was after the buzzer.
Trevor Ariza’s 3-pointer with 2:09 remaining pulled Houston within 119-118 then Patrick McCaw hit a baseline jumper immediately after Golden State’s timeout. James Harden made a layup and PJ Tucker hit two free throws with 44.1 to make it 122-121.
Nick Young came off the bench to hit six 3-pointers and score 23 points in a brilliant Warriors debut, Curry scored 22 points and Durant had 20 after a slow start. Klay Thompson added 16 points.
Chris Paul had four points on 2-for-9 shooting in his Rockets debut, while Harden scored 27 points and Eric Gordon 24 for the Rockets. Houston opened the fourth with a 9-0 run to get back in it.
The Warriors found their rhythm early but couldn’t close it out after an abbreviated preseason in terms of practice time given their recent trip to China for a pair of games against Minnesota.
Still, this opener was a far cry for the forgettable 129-100 defeat at home to San Antonio in Durant’s Warriors debut a year ago when Golden State came off a record 73-win season and runner-up finish to Cleveland in the 2016 Finals.
“I just remember the last game of the season we played,” Durant said of the Game 5 Finals clincher in June.
Young found his stroke right away, hitting his first four 3s and five shots overall. It’s exactly what the Warriors want him to do: shoot every time he has a good look. His six 3-pointers set a franchise record for anyone in their Warriors debut and also in a season opener.
Durant had one spectacular sequence in the third when he blocked Anderson’s shot on one end then converted a three-point play moments later on the other, slapping hands with a lucky boy fan on the baseline.
Houston acquired Paul from the Clippers to give them a 1-2 backcourt punch to try to gain ground on Golden
State in the Western Conference.
Coach Steve Kerr planned to pay extra attention as veterans Durant, Zaza Pachulia and David West each received a championship ring for the first time in their careers.
“Basketball accomplishments to me now are just what they are,” Durant said after morning shootaround. “I can kind of separate the two now. I feel like it’s more so just cool as hell more than anything. It’s like getting a prize possession that you’re just really excited about versus getting something that’s going to change your life. … I’ll be more so just really giddy and happy more so than emotional. I won’t be a mess.”
Pachulia had a new one to share his title with — 5-week-old daughter, Nutsa joined her mom and three older siblings, two brothers and a sister.
“I’ve heard some actors, actresses, when they get some kind of award, say without the family. I always think, ‘What exactly my family is doing?’ I feel it now, all the support and help.”
Kerr took part in the 2015 ring ceremony, but didn’t coach as he was sidelined the initial 43 games following complications from back surgery.
Key backup and 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala missed the game with a back strain, while Omri Casspi — who had been questionable with a mild right ankle sprain — appeared in his 500th career game making his debut with the Warriors. He then tweaked the ankle again.
Draymond Green exited in the second half with a strained left knee.
Iguodala is expected to return for the upcoming road trip.
Official Tre Maddox, accompanied by medical personnel, left midway through the fourth quarter after a collision with David West and hard hit to the chest area. That left two officials the rest of the way.
Rockets: At Kings on Wednesday night in Sacramento’s season opener.
Warriors: At New Orleans on Friday to start a three-game road trip.
More AP NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
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