Warriors

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 135-105 blowout loss to Rockets

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 135-105 blowout loss to Rockets

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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. 

Troubling start

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. 

[RELATED: Upside of Klay's absence? Dubs can now evaluate Poole]

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. 

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.

Which Klay Thompson iteration do Warriors fans like most on, off court?

Which Klay Thompson iteration do Warriors fans like most on, off court?

At the height of their dominance, the Warriors were one of the most hated teams in sports history. And yet Klay Thompson still seemed to be virtually liked by all. 

Thompson is loved for more than his sweet shooting stroke. He's a three-time NBA champion, two-time All-NBA players, five-time All-Star and one of the most clutch players in Warriors history. 

But it's his goofy personality off the court that fans from afar really flock to. That brings us to this tough question, which three versions of Klay are your favorite? 

To make it even tougher, head to our poll on Twitter and choose your all-time favorite version of the Warriors' shooting guard. 

It won't be easy. Klay is one of the most loved Warriors of all time for a reason. Well, actually many reasons.

Listen and subscribe to the Runnin' Plays Podcast:

Why Warriors are in third place in ESPN's NBA Future Power Rankings

Why Warriors are in third place in ESPN's NBA Future Power Rankings

Before the 2019-20 NBA season was suspended indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Warriors had the worst record in the league.

Is it really possible that they immediately become a title contender in 2020-21 and 2021-22? Is the championship window still open?

ESPN recently published its "NBA Future Power Rankings," and the answer to the two aforementioned questions is "yes."

So here's how it works:

The Future Power Rankings are ESPN Insider's projection of the on-court success expected for each team over the next three seasons, including 2019-20 if the NBA returns to action.

We asked ESPN analysts Kevin Pelton and Bobby Marks to rate teams in five categories and rank them relative to the rest of the league.

Simple enough, right?

Well, the Warriors currently sit in third place behind the LA Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers.

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Here's how Golden State ranked in the five categories:

1) Players (58.3 percent of the score) = 6th 

2) Management (16.7 percent of the score) = 4th 

3) Money (8.3 percent of the score) = tied for 26th

4) Market (8.3 percent of the score) = 2nd

5) Draft (8.3 percent of the score) = 3rd 

[RELATED: One thing Kerr, Dubs always looking for when building roster]

As Marks writes:

Golden State's two projected lottery picks in 2020 and 2021 -- their own this year and Minnesota's (top-three protected) in 2021 -- are largely responsible for the top-five ranking. In addition to their draft assets, the Warriors have Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins under contract for at least the next three seasons, which should put them in contention with both Los Angeles teams.

Eventually, we will find out if the Warriors keep the prized draft picks or package them together in a trade for another star player.

Assuming things return to normal in the not-so-distant future, it truly will be fascinating to see how the front office constructs the roster.

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