Howard keys Rockets past Warriors
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Acting Houston Rockets coach Kelvin Sampson walked through a joyous locker room late Friday night and uttered just two words: “Rick Barry.”
Fittingly, the only guy who looked up was center Dwight Howard.
Performing in the house the Hall-of-Famer rocked four decades ago with his precision shooting, Howard put on a Barry-type show from the free throw line and behind the 3-point arc, helping the Rockets outlast the Golden State Warriors 116-112.
Howard made all seven of his free throws on just the second perfect night (minimum six attempts) of his career and nailed just his third career 3-pointer during an 18-point, 11-rebound effort that helped the Rockets bounce back from a close loss at Portland on Thursday night.
“We’re a great 3-point shooting team,” Howard said of the Rockets, who outscored the Warriors 36-18 from beyond the arc. “I told the team, ‘Need a 3, give it to D.’ It worked tonight.”
Howard also did what he does best, slamming home forward Terrence Jones’ miss to start a three-point play with 2:15 to go to highlight a late run that allowed the Rockets (16-8) to continue their recent mastery of the Warriors (13-11).
Houston, which handed Golden State its worst loss of the season Dec. 3, has now beaten the Warriors 19 times in the last 22 meetings.
“This is one of those confidence-builders,” said Sampson, who for the second consecutive night was replacing Kevin McHale, who returned to his home state of Minnesota following the death of his mother, Josephine, on Tuesday.
“I kinda figured it was our night when D-12 (Howard) knocked down that 3 from the corner and made seven straight free throws,” Sampson continued. “He’s never done that in practice.”
After the Warriors held the Rockets scoreless for the first 2:49 of the fourth quarter to erase almost all of a nine-point deficit, the teams were tied at 98 following a spike tip by Golden State forward Harrison Barnes with 3:18 to play.
But the Rockets rushed the ball up the court and got an interior hoop from forward Chandler Parsons, retaking a lead they never relinquished.
Houston star James Harden recorded his ninth assist on the play, a stat not lost on Sampson.
“I thought James trusted his teammates more,” the coach observed. “We moved the ball very well tonight.”
Howard’s key three-point play came two possessions later and pushed the margin to five with 2:15 to go.
The Warriors, losing for just the third time in 10 home games this season, were never closer than three after that.
“You want him taking that shot (the 3-pointer) 100 times out of 100. It was that type of night,” Warriors backup forward Draymond Green said of Howard. “It’s just little things like that you just don’t expect.”
Harden had 26 points to lead the way for the Rockets, who are now 3-0 in the second game of consecutive-night road outings. Parsons finished with 23 points and point guard Patrick Beverley 16.
Power forward David Lee (23 points, 10 rebounds), Barnes (20 points, 12 rebounds) and center Andrew Bogut (10 points, 11 rebounds) all recorded double-doubles for the Warriors, who outrebounded the Rockets 56-32.
Point guard Stephen Curry had 20 points, reserve power forward Marreese Speights 16 and shooting guard Klay Thompson 15 for Golden State.
“If you look at their record right now, they are the better basketball team,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said of the Rockets. “But so was Denver at the end of last season (before losing to Golden State in the playoffs). We have to continue to build and work hard and be ready when it matters most.”
Holding the Warriors to just six fast-break points through 36 minutes, the Rockets took an 82-73 lead into the fourth quarter. But Houston went a full 2:49 without taking a shot to open the quarter, committing four consecutive turnovers while the Warriors were running off eight consecutive points to get within a point.
Parsons ended the Rockets’ drought with a tough 21-footer from the left corner with 9:11 to go, but Speights scored four consecutive points, the latter two on a 10-footer that gave Golden State its first lead since early in the second quarter at 85-84 with 8:10 to go.
Three ties and three lead changes later, Barnes followed in a Bogut miss to create one last tie at 98 with 3:16 to go. It was all Houston after that.
NOTES: The Warriors held an on-court tribute for Bernard King during the break between the first and second quarters. King, who averaged 22.5 points over two seasons with the Warriors from 1980-82, was a member of the most recent class inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame. ... The last time the Warriors out-rebounded an opponent by at least 24 and lost the game was against Orlando on Dec. 6, 1995. ... Warriors backup C Jermaine O‘Neal underwent surgery Friday to repair a torn ligament in his right wrist. His recovery time is being estimated at four months, which means he could miss the rest of the regular season. ... The Rockets were without their backup center, C Omar Osik, who sat out a fifth consecutive game with a bruised right thigh. The Rockets hope to get Osik back next week.