Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green reacts after their 97-96 loss against the Houston Rockets in Game 3 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Thursday, April 21, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Despite loss, Warriors still in driver’s seat

Here’s Balls’ take on the Warriors’ 97-96 loss to the Houston Rockets on Thursday night …

1. Oh, well, so much for Fo’, Fo’, Fo’, Fo, as the late, great Moses Malone would call a postseason sweep.

The Warriors lost a playoff game against a dysfunctional Rockets team, but they still have Stephen Curry, and that’s not a bad trade-off at all. Curry felt well enough play on a tender ankle, but coach Steve Kerr, general manager Bob Myers and the team medical staff “kind of teamed up on him,” as Kerr put it beforehand.

Wise move. Curry probably will start Game 4 on Sunday, but with a 2-1 lead in the series, what’s the hurry? The Rockets aren’t good enough to win three more games whether he plays or sits. Better for Curry to be healthy and rested for round two, when he’ll be needed a whole lot more.

2. Curry wasn’t the only no-show. Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson combined to brick 23 of 36 field goal tries and commit nine turnovers. The home team won the battle of the boards (52-43) and sank five more 3-pointers.

Yet despite all that, the Warriors were in position to pull this one out. After James Harden pushed off Andre Iguodala then hit a jumper to give his team a one-point lead, the Champs still had a final shot. Inexplicably, with only two seconds left in regulation, Thompson inbounded the ball to Green, who flubbed it out of bounds.

“We had too many mistakes throughout the course of the game at both ends, really.” Kerr said. “Some silly turnovers. We had like six turnovers in the first quarter and they scored on every one of them. So that got us off to a bad start. Defensively, we made some mistakes.”

Got that right.

3. Lucky for the Warriors that reserves Ian Clark and Maurice Speights showed up. Clark put up 11 points and five assists in 21 minutes. Mo Buckets went off for 22 points in 18 minutes and was the only Warrior who could throw a 3-ball into the Gulf of Mexico off a pier.

4. The Warriors connected on only 6 of 25 3-pointers, and when they don’t shoot the ball well from beyond the arc, they’re vulnerable.

Of course, the absence of Curry had a lot to do with the struggles. When he draws a crowd, teammates have more time and space to get off shots. Which is just another reason why he should be a unanimous choice for Most Valuable Player this time.

5. Hey, look, Harden passed the ball to Dwight Howard! That happens about as often as The Beard plays defense.

Truth is, Howard (13 points, 13 rebounds) acted like he cared this time. Not coincidentally, he’s done with the Rockets and can opt out of his contract after the season. But who wants a 30-year-old health risk who has a lousy attitude and can’t shoot free throws?

Fact is, almost nobody likes the guy. After a bucket in the first half, Howard tried to high-five Harden, who reluctantly did so without so much as a glance at him. In the fourth quarter, Howard barely touched the ball even though Andrew Bogut had four fouls. That he bricked all but one of his six free throws might have had something to do with it.

Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? A compliment?! Send them to pladd@aol.com, and who knows, you may get your name in the paper before long.BallsRocketsStephen CurryWarriors

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