Dose of Linsanity comes to Houston but it’s not enough against Spurs, 134-126

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For a night, the Jeremy Lin that captured Knicks fans last season was back — 34 points on 21 shots, 4-of-5 from three, 7 assists. Linsanity returned, for a half. The Rockets needed someone to step up because James Harden, his beard and his bum ankle were sidelined.

And it was fun, one of the most entertaining games of the season.

But it wasn’t enough — San Antonio still executes like San Antonio in the fourth quarter. And that was enough to pull off a comeback, force overtime and then win in the extra time, 134-126.

Jeremy Lin was the focal point of the offense and had a nice first half (3-of-7 shooting), but in the second half he looked like his old aggressive self and his shot was falling — 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting and he got to the line six times. He came off the pick and found space to attack the defense, or hit jumpers over the top of it. He finished with 38, tying his career high. But what was the real key is that Lin, who has struggled taking care of the ball all season, turned it over just twice. His shots may not fall like this every night, but if he’s taking care of the ball his value goes up.

The Rockets also got a huge game from Omer Asik, who had 21 points and 10 boards, plus seemed to be everywhere. That propelled the Rockets out to a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter and the looked headed for the upset.

Then it happened — a 12-0 Spurs run that got them up to a three-point lead.

Then the game turned into 1980s Denver Nuggets shootout for a while.

Chandler Parsons hit a three for Houston to tie it. A couple possessions later Parsons hits another three. After a Lin missed jumper Gary Neal hit a no-arc three in transition to tie it. Parsons answered with another three — his third of the quarter. Tony Parker came through with a twisting layup. A few possessions later Parker hits a cutting Manu Ginobili for a layup. Lin drains a long two pointer. Ginobili drains a three behind a Tim Duncan three. A couple possessions later Lin goes all Curly Neal and dribbles in circles until he finds Asik who hits a Duncanesque 15-foot bank to tie it.

Both teams had a chance to win it in regulation. For the Rockets, Jeremy Lin tried to isolate on Danny Green, but Green shut him off and forced a 24-second violation.

“I was calling (Asik) up and (Lin) waived him off he went four flat,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale lamented after the game, saying he wanted Lin to have the pick. “But he played fantastic, had a great game.”

The Spurs got a last shot with five seconds on the clock and had Duncan attacking in isolation from the wing, driving into the lane, but some good defense from Asik and we were headed to overtime.

In overtime, the Spurs were the Spurs — a relentless execution machine. The rockets did not take advantage of their opportunities — Asik got the smaller Green switched on to him but still took a seven-foot jumper rather than backing him down, Carlos Delfino pulled up on a fast break and let the defense set, and the dagger was a Ginobili and-1 where he suckered Parsons into the foul then hit the layup left handed.

San Antonio was led by Tony Parker who had his first career triple-double: 27 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists.

In the end the Rockets have things they can hang their hats on in this game. Not the defense, but a lot of other things. Asik played well and continues to build a strong resume as a starting center. Lin looked like his old self. Chandler Parsons and the Rockets role players stepped up. There are building blocks there.

For the Spurs, it’s another win in a long season of them.

Watch best of Klay Thompson’s nine threes, 35-point night

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Stephen Curry is a better shooter. Kevin Durant is a better scorer with a bigger toolbox.

But no Warrior can get as white-hot as Klay Thompson.

He did that on Saturday night helping the Warriors to a Game 6 win, getting his rhythm and becoming a scoring machine in the second half, finishing with 35 points including hitting 9-of-14 from three, and having six rebounds. He was just as important on the other end of the floor.

“I thought Klay was amazing tonight, not just for 35 points and the nine threes, but his defense,” Coach Steve Kerr said. “The guy’s a machine. He’s just so fit physically. He seems to thrive in these situations. But he was fantastic.”

Thompson will need to bring some of that Heat in Game 7 on the road if the Warriors are going to head back to the NBA Finals.

Backs against wall down 17, Warriors crank up defense, rain threes, force Game 7

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Warriors’ fans have been asking one question since the season tipped off in October:

What is it going to take to get Golden State to truly focus and play up to their potential?

Apparently, the answer is going down 17 to the Houston Rockets in a playoff elimination game.

Houston entered Oracle Saturday night playing smart and with energy, defending as they had the previous two games and then turning that into transition buckets and threes — 11 of them in the first half. Houston was up 17 in the first quarter and 10 at the half.

However, Golden State had started to defend better in the second quarter and they cranked up the intensity to the level fans had hoped to see in the second half — Houston scored 39 points in the first quarter and 47 combined in the final three. Houston had 25 points in the second half and shot 2-of-9 from three in the third quarter.

At the same time, Klay Thompson led an onslaught of threes for Golden State (Thompson had 9 threes on the night). The Warriors defense turned into offense.

The result was a dramatic turnaround and a 115-86 Golden State win, tying the Western Conference Finals at 3-3.

Game 7 is in Houston Monday night. Winner advances to the NBA Finals.

“Effort. Intensity. Passion,” Thompson said of the Warriors’ second-half surge. “When we do that, and we rotate, and we help each other we’re the best defensive team in the league.”

While it was their defense that sparked everything, the Warriors also found an offense that worked against the Rockets’ switching defense — more Stephen Curry with the ball in his hands. There are a few ways to counter a switching defense and one is a creative ballhandler who can still make plays — not just isolation plays, but who can create a little space and find guys moving off the ball despite the pressure. Curry was that guy, he was the Warriors best all-around player on the night. He had a high IQ game and added 29 points. With the offense not running through Kevin Durant isolations, it just flowed better (the Warriors best lineup of the night was Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston, and Nick Young, +13 in just more than eight minutes).

It just took a lot of pressure from a Rockets team to get Golden State into that mental frame of mind.

Houston opened this game with the same defensive energy they had the last two games, and once again it flustered the Golden State offense. Except, this time the Rockets did a much better job of turning those misses and turnovers into transition points (the Rockets averaged two points per possession on the break in the first half). Throw in some terrible defensive communication errors by the Warriors, and the Rockets were raining threes in the first half — 11-of-22, with Gordon going 4-of-4.

The Warriors had some success with an ultra-small lineup that unleashed Curry, but as soon as non-shooters were on the floor — Kevon Looney, Jordon Bell, and the Rockets were daring Draymond Green and Shaun Livingston to shoot — Houston shrunk the floor and took away passing lanes, plus contested every shot.

In the second half, the Warriors used that Curry energy and hit their threes to pull away. The Warriors were at their best with Bell as the fifth man with the four All-Stars, he brought an energy and athleticism that made things flow on both ends. Don’t be shocked if he starts Game 7 for Golden State.

If the Warriors pack up that second half energy with them and take it to Houston, there is not much the Rockets will be able to do. But do not expect these gritty, feisty Rockets to go quietly into that good night.

Rockets were draining threes in the first half against Warriors in Game 6

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The Rockets were feeling it the first half in Game 6.

Playing with an energy the Warriors lacked at least in the first quarter), Houston defended well, pushed the ball in transition, and then they just drained three after three after three.

Eric Gordon started 4-of-4 from three and the team was 11-of-22 in the first half, which made up for the 11 turnovers and had them up 17 at one point and ahead by 10 after the first half.

Warriors’ Andre Iguodala out for Game 6

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Steve Kerr has been searching for a couple of games now for his fifth guy.

With Andre Iguodala out there is no Death/Hamptons 5 lineup and Kerr is looking for a fifth guy to partner with his four All-Stars. Kevon Looney is starting, Jordan Bell is showing potential but also makes some rookie plays, Nick Young has been bad enough that Kerr trusted Quin Cook more at the end of the last game (and Cook missed his looks).

Kerr is going to have to keep searching for a guy in Game 6 because Iguodala is out again.

The Warriors are not the team heading into Game 6 with the most significant injury woes, the Rockets are without Chris Paul. That and the fact the Warriors’ backs are against the wall is the reason they are heavy favorites in Game 6.

However, the Warriors have not been the same without Iguodala. He is a playmaker who can control the ball and settle things down, makes the right decision, get the player and ball movement the Warriors have strayed too much from back, plus is one of their best defenders on James Harden. Nobody else on the roster can do that.

And if Game 6 gets tight late, the Warriors are going to miss those skills. As they have in the last two games.