The Houston Rockets just allowed the low-scoring Utah Jazz to shoot 55.4 percent from the field in a 120-101 loss and are slipping at the defensive end just in time to face the highest-scoring team in the NBA. The Golden State Warriors, who average 117.6 points, will try to stretch their winning streak to 13 straight when they host the Rockets on Thursday.
The teams are seeing each other for the first time since the Warriors beat Houston in five games in the opening round of the playoffs last spring. Golden State added to its impressive arsenal of talent since that series and now boasts Kevin Durant, who is averaging 27.1 points on 57 percent shooting while fitting seamlessly into the offensive attack. “Our offense is so free-flowing that the ball is going to find the open guy,” Durant told reporters. “So if you move and get open, you’re going to get shots. We’re going to be aggressive and play for each other and make the right play.” The Rockets’ offense isn’t quite as free-flowing, though James Harden’s new role as point guard is leading to more assists and a few more open shots for the likes of Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT THE ROCKETS (11-7): Mike D‘Antoni’s teams were never known for stifling the other team’s scoring total, but his best years with the Phoenix Suns included a defense that limited the opponent’s field-goal percentage. Houston is 27th in the league in field-goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to go off at 46.5 percent from the floor. “It looked like we were running in mud,” D‘Antoni told reporters after Tuesday’s setback. “We have to have more energy than that. We have to play harder, especially on the defensive end.”
ABOUT THE WARRIORS (16-2): Golden State did a solid job the previous two seasons of pairing a high-scoring offense with a defense that limits teams at the other end and is adjusting to its new personnel with a similar philosophy. The Warriors entered play on Wednesday in the top five in the NBA in field-goal percentage defense, holding opponents to 43.2 percent. “I knew coming here I had to step it up a bit as far as protecting the rim and rebounding to help the guys out,” Durant told reporters. “We’ve got a lot of guys who can defend. Since the beginning of the season, we picked it up.”
1. Harden’s string of seven straight games with double-digit assists came to an end when he handed out seven on Tuesday.
2. Durant posted a double-double in each of three last two games and three of five.
3. Golden State took all three regular-season meetings in 2015-16 by an average of 12.3 points.
PREDICTION: Warriors 126, Rockets 111