Rockets blast Warriors to close playoff gap

ORACLE ARENA — The Warriors are a much improved team over last year. But they can’t beat the Rockets and at the end of the season, that could prove costly.

The Warriors limited the highest-scoring team in the league to 37 percent shooting — and under 100 points — but they still lost to the Rockets Friday night, 94-88.

Rockets coach Kevin McHale told SFBay:

“That game will not be in Springfield in the Hall of Fame I can tell you that…but we won!”

Golden State has played Houston three times and are now 0-for-3.  A win would have given the W’s a three-game cushion in the standings with 19 games left.

Instead, the 6th place Warriors lead Houston by just one game, with Houston owning the first playoff tiebreaker,  teams’ head-to-head record. Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 24 points and eight assists and knows how critical these games are to their ultimate goal which is to play in the post-season.

“We understand the urgency of the situation. We need to take advantage of every home game we have. “

Palo Alto native Jeremy Lin said the game had a playoff feel to it.

Rockets guard Jeremy Lin

“The crowd was really hyped and it was a weekend game on ESPN and we’re battling for that 6th seed so it was a lot of fun, definitely a great atmosphere.”

Ominously, the Warriors are just 2-1/2 games ahead of Utah for the final playoff spot, with Kobe and the Lakers lurking just one-half game behind Utah.

Chandler Parsons led the Rockets with 26 points including 6-of-8 from distance.

Rockets forward Chandler Parsons

“I think I’m pretty good…I’m not surprised or anything but I’m just playing confident. When shots are falling, my confidence has never been this high. I feel like I can make anything. Just playing basketball and having fun.”

James Harden had a horrid shooting night, just 3-of-17 from the field but was 3-of-8 from 3-point range and made 11 of 14 free throws.

Rockets guard James Harden

“It happens in the game of basketball.I couldn’t throw a rock into the ocean but I just tried to get to the foul line and find other ways to impact the game…We have to control our own destiny with these 19-games left so we’ve got to get as many wins as possible.”

Lin chipped in with 15 points, seven rebounds, and four assists.

David Lee was injured with 4:36 left in the first quarter when Thomas Robinson banged into Lee’s right knee. Lee would get treatment in the locker room for a right knee contusion and did not return until the start of the second half wearing a white wrap around his knee.

Warriors forward David Lee

“I’ve been waiting eight years to be in the playoff race so when the doctors told me most likely couldn’t do anything worse to hurt it…if I could walk I was going to play so that’s what I decided to do.”

Lee’s absence definitely affected the flow of the game, yet Golden State managed to out-rebound Houston, 51-45.

Lee’s dunk with 2:07 left made it a one-point Rockets lead. That’s as close as the Warriors would get.

Curry’s 3-point attempt with 34 seconds remaining was well off the mark. Had he made the shot, the Warriors would have been down by a point. His miss, though, helped ensure the loss. The Warriors would get the ball back but Lee’s quick pass intended for Curry was intercepted by Carlos Delfino and Houston iced the game with two free throws by Harden.

At 35-28, 45 wins may be enough to get into the playoffs. That means the Warriors would need to go 10-9 the rest of the way.  As to why the Warriors failed to get this one in the win column, coach Mark Jackson said:

“That’s a tough team to contain and defend. I thought we played outstanding defense against them. But the difference is they were getting the basketball and were aggressive and we were settling. We missed shots, that’s what it boils down to.”

No rest for the Dubs, they play a back-to-back as they welcome back former teammate Monta Ellis and the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night.

NOTES

Lee was diagnosed with a bone bruise and says he’ll play against the Bucks if he’s able. … The Rockets are tied with the Thunder averaging 107 points per game. … Houston has scored 100 points in 17 of its last 18 games. … Warriors center Andrew Bogut scored only three points but all his points were scored on the second 3-pointer of his career. … Once again Golden State wore its alternate short sleeved jersey while the Rockets wore their retro red and yellow uniforms.