The Golden State Warriors lost their season opener to the Houston Rockets, and are now 0-2 in season openers with Kevin Durant in the fold. However, this loss was far closer and ultimately swung on some interesting and unexpected factors.
The Golden State Warriors suffered a blowout in their season opener last year against the San Antonio Spurs. While the Warriors managed to keep this game close, they nonetheless lost yet another season opener this year.
Golden State's 122-121 loss to the Houston Rockets may not end up meaning much by the end of the season. However, the loss also showed an unexpected vulnerability. While it is dangerous to draw strong conclusions from the first game of the season, the Rockets showed why they may end up being Golden State's biggest rival in the coming season. Here are some important notes from the first Warriors game of the 2017-18 season.
Nick Young, Man on Fire
Nick Young looked to be a potential concern during training camp and the preseason. He showed up to Media Day clearly out of shape and struggled to even hit his free throws during the preseason. Warriors fans could be forgiven for worrying about whether or not Young could be effective as a complementary player.
Young may still end up being a problem player this season, but he was just the opposite in the season opener. Swaggy P showed just how lethal he can be as a spot-up shooter around the rest of the team's powerhouse offense:
Nick Young scored 20 points in the first half of this game alone. He finished the night with 23 points on just nine shots, making eight of them and six of his seven triples. His defense was a disaster (as one might expect given his lack of conditioning), but he will continue to play a role for this team if he keeps knocking down shots from deep.
The Golden State Warriors already had injury concerns before this game even started. Those concerns actually blossomed during this game rather than being assuaged, and these injuries could be an issue going forward.
Andre Iguodala was ruled out of the game shortly before tip-off with a back issue. While he is expected to return for Friday's game against the New Orleans Pelicans, the outlook is less clear for the two players who were injured during the course of this game.
Omri Casspi, one of the team's key offseason acquisitions, re-injured a previously gimpy ankle during this game and might not return for the game against the Pelicans. More troubling, Draymond Green suffered a left knee strain late in the third quarter. While he did finish out the quarter (including sinking two free throws near the end of the period), his status is also unclear for the next game. The Warriors remain the clear title favorites, but an extended absence from Green could throw the conference hierarchy into question.
Close, but no Cigar
The Warriors might not have suffered a 29-point blowout in this game, but that arguably made the opening night loss more painful than last year's drubbing. Instead of getting a wake-up call from a tough San Antonio team, the Warriors fell just shy of an opening night victory.
Steph Curry missed what would have been the go-ahead shot with seven seconds left on the clock, but the Warriors managed to reset the possession and get another try. Kevin Durant calmly sank a buzzer-beating shot--except for the fact that he did not quite beat the buzzer. A margin of less than a tenth of a second meant the difference between victory and defeat, and the Warriors fell on the wrong side of that margin.
This game, like any other regular season game for the defending champs, will not make the measure of this team. However, they were pushed in a competitive game by one of their chief rivals and sadly added to their injury list in the process. While the Warriors should not be sweating the result of this game, Houston proved to themselves and to the league at large that they could at least compete in the playoffs against the presumptive title favorites.