OAKLAND, Calif. — With Golden State’s top big-man defender, Andrew Bogut, out of action and his backup, Jermaine O’Neal, focused on Dwight Howard, the last thing Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons expected to greet him at the rim late in overtime Thursday night was a shot-blocker.
But that’s exactly what he encountered in an extra-session showdown with O’Neal, the result being a blocked dunk that saved the Warriors’ 102-99 victory in the nationally televised affair.
“You talk about big-time plays,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said of the rejection that protected his team’s 96-95 lead with 23.8 seconds remaining in overtime. “(O’Neal is) a guy with a million miles on his body. The back nine of his career. He deserved this night.”
Warriors All-Star point guard Stephen Curry, who forced the additional five minutes with a driving left-handed layup over Howard that produced an 89-89 tie with 3.2 seconds left in regulation, drilled a 3-pointer on Golden State’s second possession of the extra period for a lead his club never relinquished.
The Rockets got within one on a Howard layup with 1:07 to go in OT, then had a chance to go ahead on their next offensive trip. However, Parsons, breaking backdoor, was denied at the rim by O’Neal — only his 21st block of the season — with Golden State clinging to a one-point lead.
“When you’re big, you kinda look at it like being a free safety,” O’Neal said of his decision to leave Howard and attack Parsons’ shot. “It was a really good play, but we had a lot of great plays at the end.”
Four free throws by Curry and two by backup forward Draymond Green iced Golden State’s first win of the year over the Rockets, who previously clinched the three-game season series by beating the Warriors in the first two meetings.
“It’s great to see that we can win ballgames when we are not at our best offensively,” Jackson said of holding the Rockets to 36.6 percent shooting. “This was all about our defense.”
Power forward David Lee led the Warriors (33-22) with 28 points and 14 rebounds on a night when Golden State shot just 39.8 percent and was outrebounded 60-49.
Curry connected on five 3-pointers on a 25-point night to back Lee. Guard Klay Thompson (12), reserve guard Jordan Crawford (12) and swingman Andre Iguodala (11) also scored in double figures for the Warriors, and O’Neal chipped in with a season-best 10 rebounds.
Backup point guard Steve Blake, acquired Wednesday in a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers, had three points and two assists in 18 minutes during his Golden State debut.
All-Star shooting guard James Harden poured in 39 points to lead the Rockets, who entered the game with the league’s longest winning streak, eight games. All but nine of Harden’s points came after halftime.
Harden had a chance to end the game in regulation, but he missed an open 3-pointer just before the horn sounded.
“It just wasn’t a crisp game for us, but it was the type of game where we had chances,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “(Harden) had a great look at the end of (regulation). He was wide open.”
Parsons had 21 points, and Howard contributed an 11-point, 21-rebound double-double for the Rockets (37-18), who went only four deep on their bench after trading away one of their backup point guards, Aaron Brooks, earlier in the day. Brooks was sent to the Denver Nuggets for swingman Jordan Hamilton.
The Warriors battled Howard without Bogut, who missed a sixth consecutive game due to left shoulder inflammation.
In the end, the Rockets’ big man was left scratching his head over Curry’s late shot in regulation that tied the game.
“I was expecting him to come and shoot a floater,” Howard said. “He made a tough shot, and there is nothing I could do about it. He did an excellent job for his team. That is what All-Stars do.”
Down by as many as 11 in the third quarter, the Rockets forged a 73-73 tie in the fourth minute of the final period on a breakaway dunk by Harden.
Six lead changes later, Lee got inside the Houston defense for a right-handed layup that tied the score at 87 with 58.1 seconds left.
Golden State forced an airball from Houston guard Jeremy Lin and a subsequent 24-second violation on the Rockets’ next possession, getting the ball with 34.1 seconds to go.
But Harden, defending the much taller Lee on the block, stripped the ball from the Golden State power forward with 30 seconds left, then connected on a step-back 20-footer on the other end of the floor for an 89-87 lead with 6.9 seconds remaining.
After a timeout, Curry drove through the Houston defense for a tough left-handed layup that produced another tie — and eventually the overtime — with 3.2 seconds left.
NOTES: There were 20 lead changes in the game. … Counting this year’s 2-1 triumph, the Rockets have won the last four season series against the Warriors, never losing more than one game to Golden State in any of those seasons. … SF Jordan Hamilton, acquired earlier in the day from the Denver Nuggets for PG Aaron Brooks, is expected to join the Rockets in time to play in Sunday’s game against the Suns in Phoenix. … When PG Steve Blake took the court for Golden State on Thursday, he became the first player acquired directly from the Los Angeles Lakers ever to play for the Warriors.
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