OAKLAND — The confetti fell but Kevin Durant’s shot didn’t — at least not in time — as the Golden State Warriors suffered a bizarre opening-night loss to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday at Oracle Arena.
Durant’s would-be game winner was called off after the referees determined that the forward’s jumper had left his hands after the final buzzer, sinking the Warriors to a 122-121 loss.
“I thought it had a chance,” Durant said. “But I knew it was a little late. I knew it was cutting it close.”
The fourth-quarter meltdown, which saw a 12-point lead evaporate into a one-point defeat, also spoiled Nick Young’s electric debut.
In 26 minutes off the bench, Young went for a team-high 23 points — 20 in the first half — connecting on six 3-pointers.
The trouble began when Draymond Green disappeared down the tunnel at the end of the third quarter — not be seen again. Midway through the fourth, the team ruled Green out for the rest of the contest with a left knee strain.
“He tweaked his left knee, head coach Steve Kerr said. “That’s all I can tell you.”
Durant was slightly more expansive.
“Not having him out there definitely sucked,” Durant said with a laugh.
Durant added that’d had the chance to speak with Green in the locker room.
“He said he was alright,” Durant explained. “So, that’s good enough.”
At the time of Green’s departure, the Warriors had opened up a 101-88 advantage. With the defensive mastermind absent, the Rockets pushed back into the game, beginning the final stanza on a 7-0 run before thundering all the way back.
“As soon as he went out of the game things went south for us,” Kerr said. “We just couldn’t get any traction.”
The Warriors commanded a 71-62 lead at the break — despite MVPs Durant and Stephen Curry combining for 15 points and only a pair of triples. The Warriors were 11-for-17 from beyond the arc in the opening half.
On the night Durant secured his first ring, the reigning Finals MVP went for 22 points, shooting 8-for-16 from the field. Curry chipped in 22, with 17 coming the the second half.
Filling up the box score, but feeling the pain
Before exiting early, Green, last year’s defensive player of the year, left his fingerprints all over the opener. Green grabbed 11 rebounds, dished 13 assists and tallying nine points in 28 minutes.
“He was our best player tonight,” Kerr said. “He was the guy bringing the energy and the life. We didn’t have much energy from most of the group tonight.”
What happened to Klay?
Klay Thompson was locked in to begin the night. The three-time All-star drilled his first three long-range efforts, posting 11 points in five minutes. His fourth 3-pointer didn’t fall until the 6:46 mark in the fourth.
1st off the bench
Rookie Jordan Bell was the first Warrior to sub in, checking in for Zaza Pachulia at the 6:11 mark — a substitution often earmarked for JaVale McGee. Bell hit his first bucket 33 seconds later.
“He played with energy,” Durant said. “So, it’s the start of a great career for him and we’re excited to have him.”
The former Oregon Duck played 12 minutes, accounting for eight points — two of which came when Green found him for a monster alley oop, just inside a minute fore the end of the third quarter.
11 in 11
Kerr shuffled in 11 players in the first 11 minutes of 2017, as Bell, Young, Shaun Livingston, Omri Casspi, Patrick McCaw and Kevon Looney all entered off the bench in the opening quarter.
Kevon at the death
With Green and Andre Iguodala both ailing, Looney, the seldom used forward, got some run during fourth-quarter crunch time. McCaw subbed in for Looney with 1:59 left in the game and the Warriors clinging to a one-point advantage.
The backup big man/Oracle cult hero didn’t appear in the opener.
Casspi, who tweaked his right ankle sprain, also saw his night end early.