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
"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
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
Harden had a chance to end the game in regulation, but he missed an
open 3-pointer just before the horn sounded.
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"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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