The Rockets cruised to five straight wins before committing 27 turnovers in a 99-97 overtime loss to Phoenix on Monday.
Yao Ming had 29 points, 19 rebounds and six blocked shots and Jim Jackson shot 7-of-8 from 3-point range and scored 23 points for Houston, which shot 52 percent overall from behind the arc (13-for-25).
However, despite several outstanding offensive performances, the Rockets’ sloppy ball-handling and poor defense down the stretch did them in.
“We let up, it’s very simple,” Yao said. “Their trap caused problems, but we were too conservative. If we would have pushed the ball up, we would have had a lot more opportunities.”
The Rockets have an opportunity to move up from the seventh spot in the Western Conference if they can put together another lengthy winning streak.
Houston trailed sixth-place Memphis by 2 1/2 games heading into Thursday.
Yao has been a monster in the paint for the Rockets, averaging 24.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks over the last seven games. He is averaging 16.5 points in two games against Golden State this season.
The Warriors have shown some life since ending a nine-game losing streak with a 97-80 win over San Antonio on Monday, following that up with a 110-85 rout of Orlando on Wednesday. Forward Troy Murphy came off the bench and scored a season-high 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
“I was feeling good out there,” said Murphy, who appeared in his fifth game since being activated from the injured list last week. “It’s been a long season for me personally. I’m grateful just to go out there and play.”
Golden State’s Erick Dampier had 13 points and 15 rebounds, notching his 37th double-double. Dampier has averaged just 7.5 points in two meetings against Yao and the Rockets this season.
STANDINGS (through March 17): Rockets - 5th place, 6 1/2 GB, Midwest Division. Warriors - 5th place, 21 1/2 GB, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Rockets - Yao, 17.6 ppg and 8.9 rpg; Francis, 6.0 apg. Warriors - Richardson, 18.7 ppg; Dampier, 11.6 rpg; Nick Van Exel, 5.3 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Rockets, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 5; Rockets, 83-65. At Houston, Maurice Taylor scored a season-high 25 points to lead the Rockets. The 65 points allowed were the second-fewest in club history.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rockets - 14-16 on the road; Warriors - 20-13 at home.