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Rockets end skid with win over Warriors

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- Rockets guard James Harden didn't mince words when asked to describe exactly what inspired Houston to showcase a level of defense so ferocious that it left the Golden State Warriors utterly stifled.

"Desperation. We had to win a game," Harden said. "We lost two games, two games we should have won, so it was time to come home and just win. Find a way to win, and we did that on the defensive end tonight."

The Rockets blitzed Golden State early and later negated any threat of another miraculous Warriors comeback, snapping a two-game skid with a 105-83 victory on Friday night at Toyota Center.

Houston (14-7) led by as many as 28 points in reversing its mini-slump, parlaying dominating performances from Harden (a game-high 34 points), forward Terrence Jones (16 points, 10 rebounds) and center Dwight Howard (22 points, 18 rebounds, three steals) into triumph.

Golden State (11-9) was undone by the Rockets' smothering defense, shooting 35.5 percent, including 2-for-16 on 3-pointers. The Warriors, who have dropped 18 of 21 games in their series with Houston, entered play leading the league in 3-point shooting at 43.7 percent.

Guard Stephen Curry paced the Warriors with 22 points but missed nine of 14 attempts. Golden State rallied from a 27-point, third-quarter deficit to stun the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night in Oakland, but they got no closer than 15 points in the fourth quarter against Houston.

"We felt like we could score, but we just couldn't stop them," Curry said. "They were getting to the free-throw line, getting easy buckets, and the turnovers were plenty early and often."

All that had ailed the Rockets offensively vanished with forward Chandler Parsons back in the fold. Parsons, who missed losses to the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns with back spasms, sparked the fast start in his return, hitting an early 3 while adding three first-quarter assists.

The Rockets raced to a 31-12 lead by the close of the opening quarter, scoring 16 points in the paint and eight in transition. Jones posted 11 points in the period, most coming in the restricted area, while Howard added nine points and nine boards in just 11 minutes.

"The way we started the ball game, there have been times our bench has been bad and we let them know and tonight, the starters did a poor job of setting the tone," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "We got outworked. They played with more force and that set the tone the rest of the way."

The Warriors shot poorly throughout, and if Curry didn't warm up just prior to the intermission, their 24-point deficit likely would have been greater. Curry scored the Warriors' final seven points of the second period, including a 19-foot pull-up jumper and a driving finger-roll layup that represented a third of the Warriors' baskets in the second quarter.

Curry tallied 16 points by the break, but guard Klay Thompson and forward Harrison Barnes scored just six on a combined 1-for-13 shooting. That tandem was averaging a combined 34.8 points per game.

The Rockets not only pressured the Warriors sharpshooters at the arc, they showed enough dexterity to prevent rim attacks via dribble drives.

"I thought we came out and really got after them," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "They dropped the ball to Harrison Barnes quite a bit early; James did a really nice job guarding him. I thought Patrick (Beverley) did a really nice job on Steph and Chandler was locked in on Klay Thompson.

"Those guys are tough guys to guard, and they did a nice job of not getting them started. We were able to just kind of play from there."

NOTES: Golden State has trusted the individual defensive ability of its centers against the best bigs in the league -- a philosophy that has been reinforced with C Andrew Bogut having returned to optimal health. "With (Bogut) and our big guys, we pretty much like to play one-on-one, and if necessary we'll send help," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "But overall we're going to live with an elite defender getting the job done." ... Warriors G Toney Douglas is nearing a return from a stress reaction in his left tibia and has been lobbying for playing time. "We want to stay true to the process and make sure he's healthy and whole," Jackson said. ... Houston has struggled with being short-handed, something that has Rockets coach Kevin McHale miffed. "I told them there's no one to substitute for you," McHale said of his rotation members. "You should feel relaxed in playing."
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