Houston Rockets

Warriors have number of must-see games as Steph Curry's return looms

Warriors have number of must-see games as Steph Curry's return looms

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

There hasn't been a lot to cheer about for the Warriors this season, so with 24 games left on the schedule, those looking to be entertained (and are not overly worried about draft odds) should be quite excited about Steph Curry's imminent return. With him back in the lineup, every game the rest of the way should be intriguing as we watch the development of on-court chemistry between him and Andrew Wiggins.

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A few of the 24 remaining matchups stand out above the rest:

March 10 vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Arguably the most dangerous team in the Western Conference comes to Chase Center in a couple of weeks. The Clippers have not faced the Warriors since the trade deadline, so the new look Dubs squad with Curry, Wiggins and Draymond Green should be an exciting home matchup against Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

It is uncertain if all the stars will play, but if they do, the Chase Center crowd will be ready for fireworks.

March 14 at Milwaukee Bucks

If the Clippers are the possible favorites to represent the West in the Finals, the Bucks are expected to meet them there out of the Eastern Conference.

The matchup will be very tough for the Warriors, and likely will result in a loss. But everyone will be keeping a close eye on the game within the game -- the competition and interactions between Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Perhaps a surprise Warriors win would be a great pitch to woo the Greek Freak to the Bay Area.

March 16 at Toronto Raptors

The first contest between the 2019 Finals teams will be in mid-March, and while there have been plenty of changes to the rosters (primarily the Warriors'), there is sure to be a good atmosphere in Toronto.

While the Warriors' season has hit rock bottom, the Raptors have impressively coped with the loss of Leonard and currently own the second-best record in the East. This will be another tough game for the Warriors, but some pride may be on the line for Curry, Green and Kevon Looney after their defeat last June.

March 21 at New York Knicks

When Curry suits up in Madison Square Garden, it always is a spectacle. The Knicks constantly are reminded of what could have been if they had drafted Curry, who has publicly said that New York was where he originally wanted to play coming out of college.

Like the Warriors, the Knicks have had a terrible season, so this game will be very winnable. But it will come at the end of a rough five-game road trip against the East's best, so it is hard to predict which Warriors team will show up.

March 25 vs. Atlanta Hawks

Trae Young against Curry. That itself should inspire the masses to watch the two lottery-bound teams compete in San Francisco.

The Hawks are bristling with some young talented players, so a matchup against the up-and-coming Warriors rookies and young vets, like Eric Paschall and Marquese Chriss, should be fun. The two teams also are willing trade partners, with former Warriors front office executive Travis Schlenk running the Hawks basketball operations, so perhaps the two squads will be scouting each other for future deals as well.

April 2 at Houston Rockets

The best win of the Warriors' season had to be the shocking upset of the Rockets on Christmas Day. The rivalry between the two teams always has been must-see, but the addition of Russell Westbrook to the mix has made the games that much more volatile.

Don't forget, it last week when Rockets pummeled the Warriors at Chase Center that Westbrook got into an altercation with multiple Warriors players, ending in his ejection. It is possible that the tension boils over yet again.

April 7 at Lakers

LeBron James will not be playing against the Warriors on Thursday night. But there is a good chance the Lakers will be trying to wrap up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference come April 7, so it would not be a surprise if James suits up.

Curry and the Warriors have notoriously shot poorly in Staples Center against the Lakers, but this roster is completely different than past Warriors teams. Hopefully for the Warriors, next year both California rivals will be title contenders.

April 8 vs. Cavaliers

Why would Cleveland be a fun matchup this late in the season? Because there is a very good chance that the Cavs and Warriors will be "competing" for the worst record in the NBA.

Of course, the three worst teams in the league have the same odds of obtaining the No. 1 overall pick, but the team that finishes at the very bottom of the standings is guaranteed to stay within the top five of the draft. The game will be on the second night of a back-to-back, so there is a solid chance that veterans Curry and Green won't play.

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta admits Houston was scared of Warriors

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta admits Houston was scared of Warriors

Were the Houston Rockets "scared" of the Warriors the last couple of seasons?

The answer is "yes" according to Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta.

“None of us fear L.A. (the Lakers) or the Clippers or Denver like we feared Golden State,” he told Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman. “It’s not like how we were scared of them."

That visual you see in your head right now is millions of Warriors fans around the world smiling.

The Dubs beat the Rockets in Game 7 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals in Houston, and then ended the Rockets' season last year by winning Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals in Houston again (without Kevin Durant).

Golden State will not be in Houston's way this year, which is why Fertitta is feeling good about his team's chances of reaching the NBA Finals.

"We could easily win the West this year or get knocked out in the first round," he told Bohls. "Both L.A. teams, Denver, Houston, we’re all excellent teams. Just comes down to somebody gets hot and makes a shot.

"Our chances are as good as they’ve ever been.”

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The Rockets are 8-2 in their last 10 games, and currently are in fourth place in the Western Conference -- just two games behind the second-place Denver Nuggets.

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Russell Westbrook defends actions that led to ejection vs. Warriors

Russell Westbrook defends actions that led to ejection vs. Warriors

Russell Westbrook is sick of the unfair labels he believes he's been painted with by the NBA.

The Houston Rockets' star point guard received two technical fouls and was ejected from Thursday night's 135-105 win over the Warriors at Chase Center. The second technical came late in the game. Westbrook elbowed Damion Lee while going for a rebound, and then appeared to stare Lee down after having the ball taken away from him.

Westbrook started walking toward the Warriors' bench and was hit with a technical foul while both were jawing back and forth. The All-Star point guard defended himself after the game, noting he didn't intentionally elbow Lee and that he believes he is held to a different standard. 

"I think it's a situation where, I hold myself to a very, very, very high standard," Westbrook said after the game. "I think with the refs, the fans, the media, the NBA, I'm put in a position where I'm not allowed to really do much. Obviously, I’m an emotional guy. If you watch the clip, obviously I hit Lee. It wasn’t on purpose. I was going to the glass. He got hit. He said something to me. I said something to him. I’m standing there. The guy snatched the ball out of my hand. Guys are coming up to me. I didn’t move. But I’m always the one that gets painted to be the bad guy in the whole situation.

“They asked me to walk towards the Warriors bench," Westbrook continued. "So, I’m just over their walking to the bench. One of their young fellas tell me, ‘Why you walking over here, talking mess with me?’ I turned around and said, 'What you say?’ Now, everybody’s running over to me. Then, (Kevon) Looney steps in front of me. I’m in a position, 'Russ is being Russ,’ which nobody knows what that means.

“I have to do a better job of holding myself to a very, very high standard,” Westbrook continued. “I’ll make sure I leave no room for error to allow somebody to paint me as being a bad guy. I just think it’s unfair that after all that, I’m the only one that gets a tech or gets kicked out. That’s not fair. I don’t care what nobody says. There are certainly other people involved in it that were doing so many things that's not OK. But I’m the one that gets a tech, gets ejected and everybody else is cool and goes back to playing."

Westbrook now has 13 technical fouls on the season, putting him three away from an automatic one-game suspension that comes with getting 16 technical fouls in the season.

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The best part of the light dust-up was the look on Klay Thompson's face as Westbrook was jawing with the Dubs' bench.

Teams are enjoying piling on the Warriors this season, but there's no doubt Klay -- who was ruled out for the season Thursday -- will remember this once he returns next season.