SAN FRANCISCO -- The Warriors (12-44) played perhaps their best game of the season the last time they faced the Houston Rockets (35-20), handily beating them on Christmas Day. No such miracles happened Thursday, however, as the Rockets easily beat the Warriors 135-105.
James Harden scored 32 points, while Russell Westbrook turned in a double-double as Houston handed Golden State its fifth straight loss. The Rockets left little room for a Warriors comeback, jumping out to a 21-point first-quarter lead and never looking bag.
The Warriors are looking for a spark down the stretch, and they didn't show much progress towards that goal Thursday. Here are three takeaways from the first game after the All-Star break.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr laments turnovers above all, even in the Warriors' era of transition. His team gave him plenty to shout about Thursday.
The Warriors turned the ball over nine times in the first quarter, trailing by 21 points after the first 12 minutes. James Harden scored 11 of his game-high 32 points in the first, while the Rockets hit 51 percent of their 3-pointers. That hot start allowed most of Houston's starters to sit out the fourth quarter.
Thursday's loss was distinctly different from the Warriors' Christmas win when they thoroughly dominated down the stretch. Two months after holding Harden to zero free-throw attempts, he had 15 shots from the line Thursday.
The Warriors did everything Thursday that they said they didn't want to do as the season winds down. Their only positive? They won't face the Rockets until April.
Jordan Poole shows promise
Hours before the loss, Poole had a simple strategy for how he'd tackle the final 28 games of his rookie season.
"If you're open, shoot," he said following shootaround. "If you're not, pass."
He did a bit of both Thursday, finishing with 19 points and two assists in 32 minutes and providing a glimpse of his potential. Poole has shown promise as the team's starting point guard over the Warriors' last two games, scoring 12 points in Golden State's last game before the break
The Warriors will be welcomed moving forward. Poole has a small window to rectify his season in the starting lineup with Steph Curry's imminent return, and Thursday was a positive start.
Westbrook still draws Warriors' ire
Russell Westbrook continued his strong start to 2020, finishing with 21 points, 10 assists and five rebounds Thursday. His biggest play came midway through the fourth quarter, prompting an early exit.
Westbrook elbowed Warriors guard Damion Lee before attempting a rebound, with the game comfortably in hand. The Rockets star veered to the Warriors' bench after the play, talking trash in the vicinity of Andrew Wiggins and injured guard Klay Thompson. He was ejected moments later, prompting a chorus of boos from the Chase Center crowd.
Klay wasn’t having any of it after Russ got T’d up 🤣 pic.twitter.com/co1N3EajWN— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) February 21, 2020
Westbrook and the Warriors have a history dating back to the guard's days with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He isn't liked much around these parts, and the crowd was sure to remind him Thursday.