Warriors can’t hold on in Nelson’s return
OAKLAND – Aaron Brooks talked coach Rick Adelman out of a pick-and-roll on the final play.
Adelman agreed, then Brooks made something happen himself.
He hit two free throws with 2.1 seconds left and the Houston Rockets rallied for their eighth straight win against the Warriors, spoiling Golden State coach Don Nelson’s return from pneumonia with a 111-109 victory Thursday night.
Brooks scored 25 points to lead seven Houston players in double figures. Kyle Lowry scored eight of his 11 points in the fourth quarter in a wild finish after the Rockets trailed by 10. After Anthony Morrow tied it for Golden State with 13.3 seconds left, Brooks drew a foul by C.J. Watson on the other end and converted.
“I just didn’t want two people to guard me,” Brooks said. “I felt if I had to pick-and-roll, I’d have two guys guarding me and my turnover ratio isn’t that good, so to try to make that pass probably wasn’t the best idea. I just wanted to go 1-on-1. The ref made a great call, a call that most refs wouldn’t make.”
Monta Ellis had 24 points, eight assists and six rebounds for the Warriors, who welcomed back Nelson after he missed five games while quarantined at home with pneumonia. The Rockets also spoiled the Warriors’ season opener at Oracle Arena in similar fashion, winning 108-107 on Oct. 28.
Carl Landry scored 11 of his 22 points in the fourth and also grabbed nine rebounds, and Shane Battier blocked a career-high six shots to go with 10 points and four assists. Luis Scola had 13 rebounds to lead the Rockets to a 49-37 advantage off the boards.
Trevor Ariza had 18 points but committed five of his team’s 23 turnovers that nearly cost Houston its third straight win. The Rockets also shot just 8 of 23 from 3-point range.
“They’re a team of big runs,” Battier said. “When you play the Warriors, especially here, no lead is safe on either side. We had to stay with our principles and make a few plays, which we did.”
Morrow finished with 21 points and Vladimir Radmanovic had 20 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals, but the Warriors couldn’t hold the lead late on the way to losing their fifth in a row to Houston at Oracle Arena.
Radmanovic sat for 9 minutes as Nelson went with a small lineup and Houston fought back.
“I liked the matchup for us, it was good, for a while,” Nelson said. “Maybe I stuck too long with that situation.”
Nelson still wasn’t feeling great but considered himself well enough to coach again, though he hadn’t ruled out skipping the team’s five-game trip next week. The 69-year-old Nelson, the second-winningest coach in NBA history, stayed seated most of the time but stood up for the first time during the game at the 3:03 mark of the first quarter.
Top assistant Keith Smart coached the team for five games while Nelson was ill and the Warriors went 2-3, including a 111-103 victory at Dallas on Nov. 24 with only six players.
Ellis played in foul trouble all game and looked strong despite missing shootaround earlier in the day with a stomach bug. Ellis, who had a verbal spat with Nelson last month after a practice in New York, had two 40-point games and a 37-point performance during Nelson’s absence.
He was whistled for back-to-back charges late in the second quarter and the fans booed the officials at the start of halftime.
Golden State came out of the break and made six of seven shots to pull ahead 66-62. But the young Warriors are still trying to learn how to finish games and lost their fourth in five.
Adelman told his team it could come back.
“That’s what we talked about: We’re down 10 but they’ll let us back in the game,” Adelman said.
Brooks’ floating jumper with 4:04 to play pulled the Rockets to 103-99, then he cut it to 103-101 with a driving layin the next time down the court. Houston tied it on two free throws by Landry with 2:55 to play and his layup on the next possession gave the Rockets the lead.
NOTES: Battier’s blocks were the most vs. Golden State since Indiana’s Jermaine O’Neal had six on Jan. 13, 2008. … Houston is 7-3 on the road against Western Conference opponents. … The Warriors activated G/F Devean George for the first time all season after missing the preseason and first month with a sore left knee. He didn’t play. … Golden State G Raja Bell – who came to the Warriors in the Stephen Jackson swap with the Bobcats last month – underwent surgery on his left wrist in Charlotte to repair ligament damage. He will have his wrist immobilized for six weeks and is expected to miss at least three months. … Golden State sported throwback San Francisco Warriors jerseys worn from 1962-64 as part of the team’s “Hardwood Classics Nights,” which will take place at every remaining Wednesday night home game this season.
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