OAKLAND, Calif. - The Houston Rockets earned themselves potentially an important playoff tie-breaker Friday night, harassing the Golden State Warriors into 4-for-21 shooting in the fourth quarter en route to a 94-88 road win.
In beating the Warriors for the third consecutive time this season, the Rockets (34-29) not only moved within one game of Golden State (35-28) in the battle for the No. 6 playoff position in the Western Conference, but also clinched the season series, which is the first tie-breaker in the case of a tie at the end of the regular season.
The visitors pulled it out with an 8-2 game-closing run that was accomplished without a field goal.
After the Warriors' Harrison Barnes produced an 86-all tie with a driving hoop with 3:50 to go, James Harden countered with a free throw that gave the Rockets the lead for good with 3:27 to go.
Stephen Curry and David Lee missed shots for the Warriors, after which Harden got fouled again. This time, he made both shots, extending the margin to 89-86.
Lee, who suffered a right-knee contusion in the first quarter and sat out the final 16 ½ minutes of the half, got the Warriors back within one with a dunk off a Curry feed with 2:07 to go. But the Warriors didn't score again, missing four shots and mixing in a 16th turnover.
Harden (three) and Jeremy Lin (two) capped the scoring with late free throws.
Neither of the Houston guards had much of a shooting night, with Harden making three 3's but missing all other 14 shots he attempted, while Lin only 3-for-9. But both did damage at the free-throw line, Harden making 11 of 14 to highlight a 20-point game, and Lin going 8-for-9 to account for a majority of his 15 points.
Chandler Parsons led the Rockets with 26 points, connecting on six 3's. In fact, Houston had more 3-point field goals (15) than two-pointers (12) in the game.
Curry had 24 points and Klay Thompson 22 for the Warriors, who shot just 37.9 percent. Lee limped through the second half to finish a 16-point night.
Notes: NBA commissioner David Stern attended the game and addressed the largest contingent of media to attend a Warriors home contest this season -- "Cowbell Kingdom" as he tabbed his packed pregame press conference -- a majority of which had made the 90-mile trek from Sacramento to grill him on the future of the Kings. The lead story on the evening news in the state capital, as Stern labeled the Mark Mastrov-led offer to buy the team and keep it in Sacramento: "Not quite there (financially)." The NBA's Board of Governors will vote on the matter in April. ... Mastrov, a San Francisco Bay Area native, also attended the game. ... Amid the Sacramento-related questions, Stern found time to praise the Rockets and Warriors, gushing, "These are two exciting teams that have been rebuilt. This is what the NBA is about." ... Interestingly, Stern may have been inadvertently pessimistic about the Warriors' postseason hopes, warning, "The team seems to be headed to the playoffs, but stay tuned." ... Before Stern entered the room, Warriors coach Mark Jackson called him "the greatest commissioner in the history of sports." Added Jackson, "It's going to be a sad day when he departs. We should begin a tour now and acknowledge the job he is doing." ... The Warriors got their first look at Thomas Robinson as a member of the Houston Rockets, but he's no stranger to the club. Robinson played a role in Sacramento's wins over Golden State in November and December before being dealt to Houston last month. "I feel bad for him," Rockets coach Kevin McHale noted before the game. "As a rookie, you're trying to figure out your way in the NBA, and now he's got to try and do that on two different teams." ... Earlier in the day, the Warriors signed forward Malcolm Thomas out of the NBA Developmental League to a 10-day contract. Thomas, undrafted out of San Diego State in 2011, had 13 points and 17 rebounds in his one and only D-League appearance Wednesday after beginning the season in Israel.