The Rockets rallied late but fell short as the Durant-less Warriors edged out Houston in the final regular season matchup between the two teams before the playoffs.
There was plenty of buzz building up before the Rockets and Warriors faced off on Wednesday night.
Houston had been riding a nine-game winning streak before the loss to Golden State.
Despite not having Kevin Durant, the Warriors faced some pressure to defeat the Rockets as they were looking to avoid being swept in a four-game regular season matchup for the first time under Steve Kerr.
Golden State came out the gates firing as they built an early 10 point lead in the first quarter and had Houston playing catch-up all night long.
Houston had a chance to tie the game on their final possession, but P.J. Tucker‘s deflection of James Harden‘s missed free throw was picked up by Andre Igouodala and Houston was unable to foul to extend the game.
Despite the loss, Houston still won the season series against Golden State 3-1.
The Rockets struggled on the boards all night long as Golden State crushed Houston 44 to 31 in that category, and the Rockets shot a lackluster 11-for-41 from behind the three-point line.
Rockets left House unused for regular season party
A big part of the buzz before the game had to do with Houston’s conversion of Danuel House‘s two-way contract into a full guaranteed NBA contract for the remainder of the season.
Many were left disappointed, however, when the Rockets left House on the bench for the entire game.
Mike D’Antoni told The Athletic’s Alykhan Bijani that he has to find minutes for Danuel House Jr, who recently re-signed with the team.
“I’ve got to work Danuel House in there. That’s another athletic body.”
The Rockets head coach made it clear that he did not feel like bringing back House against the defending champions would be the most productive way to get him back into NBA shape, but it would have been nice to see if House could have provided more offensively.
Iman Shumpert, who played a similar role to what House did for the Rockets before he was forced to go to the G-League, only finished the game with 4 points on 0/3 shooting from beyond the arc and was a -13 for the game.
The Rockets host Phoenix, who is the worst team in the Western Conference record-wise, on Friday night. That matchup should be a more favorable one for House to readjust to playing with the Rockets.
The loss hurts in more ways than one
With the loss to Golden State, not only did Houston’s chances at the number one seed likely end, but Houston also fell back to the number four seed in the Western Conference as they now are tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder at 42-26 (Oklahoma City owns the tie-breaker).
Even though the Rockets will be heavy favorites against the Suns on Friday night, that game could very quickly become a trap-game as Pheonix has defeated the Bucks and the Warriors in a span of a week, so they are not to be taken lightly.
Houston was thoroughly out-muscled in the paint against Golden State, and Phoenix’s DeAndre Ayton is sure to create more rebounding nightmares for the Rockets.
Houston cannot afford to lose any should-win games from here on out as the difference between two and five in the West is a mere 3.5 games.