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James Harden, Houston Rockets spoil Golden State Warriors' celebration

By
Dave Del Grande, The Sports Xchange
Houston Rockets James Harden puts up a shot in front of Golden State Warriors Klay Thompson in the first period of game 5 of the NBA playoffs at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California on April 27, 2016. File photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI
Houston Rockets James Harden puts up a shot in front of Golden State Warriors Klay Thompson in the first period of game 5 of the NBA playoffs at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California on April 27, 2016. File photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Two guys who were imported to help make the Houston Rockets a better defensive team demonstrated Tuesday night they pack a little offensive punch as well.

Luc Mbah a Moute ignited a rally with 12 fourth-quarter points, and P.J. Tucker scored the game's final two on a pair of free throws with 44.1 seconds left, helping the Rockets stun the Golden State Warriors 122-121 in the defending champion's ring-ceremony opener.

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The defeat was the first since 2011 and just the fourth since 2000 on opening night for an NBA defending champ.

The Warriors, who lost just 15 times last season, also dropped their opener last year, drubbed 129-100 by the San Antonio Spurs.

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"I think the right outcome happened. We deserved to lose," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "They outplayed us."

Houston's win wasn't official until a video review confirmed that Kevin Durant's possible game-winning 12-footer from the left baseline was still on his fingertips when the final horn sounded.

The Warriors also lost another apparent point when, after review, Patrick McCaw's jumper from the corner with 1:43 remaining was changed from a 3-pointer to a 2, leaving the Rockets down 121-118.

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A driving hoop by James Harden, the game's leading scorer with 27 points, made it a one-point game with 1:32 to play, setting up Tucker's difference-making free throws.

"The guys wanted it, and they did it," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "It's sweet, and we'll like it, but we've got to move on."

The foul on Tucker occurred after Mbah a Moute retrieved a Harden miss and found Eric Gordon for a 3-point try, which he missed with 46 seconds left.

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Tucker was fouled by Shaun Livingston in pursuit of Houston's second offensive rebound in the key sequence.

"We looked tired," Kerr said. "I don't think we are in good enough shape yet to play a 48-minute game against a great team."

The Warriors had three subsequent chances to win.

First, Stephen Curry threw the ball away, Golden State's 17th turnover, to give Houston a possession on which Harden misfired from 3-point range.

Then Curry was off the mark on a 3-point attempt with five seconds left, after which a deflection resulted in the ball ending up in the hands of Durant.

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The forward's frenzy-inducing shot eventually was ruled no good, sending the sellout crowd home disappointed.

"Somebody said we don't take it seriously on defense," D'Antoni said. "We want to be a good defensive team, but when you play against guys like that, you better be able to score the ball. We were able to do both."

After trailing by as many as 17 in the first half, the Rockets got a 3-pointer from Mbah a Moute in a 9-0 run to open the fourth quarter and trim all but four from a 101-88 Warriors lead.

Houston still trailed 114-107 after a Curry 3-pointer with 5:12 left before rallying.

Gordon had a three-point play, while Tucker and Trevor Ariza buried 3-point shots during the late flurry that set up the last-minute drama.

The Warriors played the fourth quarter without All-Star forward Draymond Green, who sustained a strained left knee late in the third period.

"He was our best player tonight," Kerr said of Green, who just missed a triple-double with nine points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists despite playing just 28 minutes.

Harden had 10 assists and six rebounds to complement his 27 points for the Rockets, who also beat Golden State in the teams' first meeting last season, a double-overtime thriller on Dec. 1.

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The Rockets have now recorded at least one win in Oakland in 10 of the past 14 seasons.

Five Rockets joined Harden in double figures: Gordon with 24, Tucker 20, Mbah a Moute 14, Ryan Anderson 13 and Clint Capela 12.

In his Houston debut, Chris Paul had four points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.

Nick Young had a team-high 23 points, including 20 in the first half, in his Warriors debut.

Curry finished with 22 points but missed six of his nine 3-point attempts. Durant had 20 points, but also eight turnovers.

Klay Thompson added 16 points for Golden State, which outshot the Rockets 53.8 percent to 48.5.

NOTES: NBA commissioner Adam Silver presented the Warriors with their 2016-17 championship rings in a pregame, on-court ceremony. The franchise's fifth all-time championship banner also was unveiled in the Oracle Arena rafters. ... The game was officiated by two referees for the final 8:56 after Tre Maddox sustained an injury to his right side in a collision with Warriors PF David West. Maddox had to be helped to the locker room. ... The Warriors recorded 34 assists in the game. They went 49-1, losing only to Houston, when totaling 30 or more assists last season. ... The Warriors played without SF Andre Iguodala, who strained his back in a weight-training session. He is expected to make his season debut during the three-game trip that tips off Friday night at New Orleans. ... The Rockets will experience their second home opener as a visitor when they travel to Sacramento for the second half of a back-to-back on Wednesday night.

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