Draymond Green, Warriors always will 'feel good' after beating Rockets

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Throughout his NBA career, Draymond Green has been the barometer of the Warriors' energy levels in big games.

In the final moments of their 116-104 win over the Rockets on Christmas Day at Chase Center, Green gave his latest gift-wrapped example.

With three minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Warriors forward received a pass from guard Ky Bowman in front of Houston's bench, gathered it, hit a 3-pointer to put Golden State ahead 103-97, shot a thizz face to coach Steve Kerr, and jumped in celebration with injured teammate Stephen Curry into a timeout.

Two minutes later, at the top of the key, Green cocked, loaded and hit another 3-pointer, putting the Warriors ahead by 16, before sticking his tongue out as he looked toward team chairman Joe Lacob in celebration of Golden State's soon-to-be eighth win of the season.

Both sequences displayed a common theme: Even in the midst of an 8-24 season, Green and the Warriors relish beating the Rockets more than any opponent. 

"It's great," Green admitted afterward. "It's been a really trying season for us, and to come out on Christmas Day, everybody watching ... to come out and execute like we did and actually get a win against a very good basketball team, it definitely feels good."

Behind Green's energy, Golden State churned out its best game of the season. In addition to the forward's 20 points, 11 rebounds and three assists, the Warriors held the Rockets to just 37 percent shooting from the field, as guard Russell Westbrook hit just 11 of 32 attempts. As Westbrook missed, the Warriors employed a trap at the top of the key on James Harden, forcing the ball out of his hands.

By the end of the night, all other Rockets not named Harden had made just 28 of 82 shots, while the human free-throw machine got to the line only once. 

However, the Warriors' enthusiasm Wednesday can be traced to their most recent playoff run. Over the last five years, the teams have played 40 times, including four postseason series. In each meeting, Houston has provided some of Golden State's biggest tests and most important wins.

Two years ago, the No. 2-seeded Warriors beat the Rockets in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals after overcoming a 17-point second-half deficit. Seven months ago, they beat the Rockets once more, without an injured Kevin Durant, after Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry combined for 60 points, bookending a rivalry that reverberated throughout the league.

"I've watched those games," said guard D'Angelo Russell, who signed a max contract with the Warriors last summer. "I've seen how heated they can get. I know a bit of the insight you guys have, just competing at a high level for such a long period of time. You could definitely feel it. 

"It's been a great matchup," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "This game meant a lot to us, and you can see in the way our players approached it."

The Warriors' latest conquest over the Rockets comes during a unique time for the organization. As Green sneered, Thompson and Curry were in street clothes, rehabbing long-term injuries while Golden State sits at the bottom of the Western Conference. However, in recent games, the Warriors have shown life, holding teams to just 44 percent shooting from the field over their last three games, winning each, aligning their mindset with Green's.

"For me, the struggle early in the season wasn't that were losing, just felt like we weren't fighting," Green said. "That's what was frustrating for me. I can deal with loss, but when you just go down not swinging, that's tough. Now that we're fighting, we're showing that we're a much better team than we were."

[RELATED: Warriors pulled off one of NBA's biggest Christmas upsets]

Green's shots in the final minutes again show that no matter how far the Warriors fall, a win over the current Iteration of the Rockets will come with an extra bit of excitement.

"You got to feel good," Green said. "Especially on a stage like this. In the midst of everything this team has been going through, to beat a team like that, it feels great."

Draymond Green, Warriors always will 'feel good' after beating Rockets originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area