SAN FRANCISCO -- The sellout crowd arrived at Chase Center on Christmas Day seeking only one gift: A Warriors victory.
They got their wish.
The Warriors bent but never broke and earned every bit of a 116-104 triumph over the powerful Houston Rockets.
It was the third consecutive win for the Warriors (8-24), who played lock-down defense in the fourth quarter, holding the Rockets (21-10) to 17 points on 6-of-20 shooting from the field.
Here are three quick takeaways from a game in which the Warriors were heavy underdogs:
Scrap, pluck and perspiration
The Warriors knew they were outgunned, that the Rockets were coming in on a four-game win streak, that they were averaging 120.2 points per game (second in the NBA) and that they led the league in 3-point makes (15.8 per game).
Simply to have a chance to win, the Warriors would have to play solid defense and, moreover, win the hustle game. They did.
The Warriors battled from baseline to baseline. They were all over the glass, chasing loose balls, scrambling on defensive rotations. Their desire was both palpable and visible.
In a challenging season, they played as they must to give themselves a chance to win. Though they won’t always succeed, but they followed the blueprint perfectly.
Valor on defense
Coach Steve Kerr said on Monday that all the guys who generally have guarded James Harden – Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala – in recent years are not available.
In the absence of Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala chasing the league-leading scorer, the Warriors sent plenty of double-teams, usually helping Glenn Robinson III and forcing the ball of out Harden’s hands. On those occasions when he could launch before the second defender arrived, he was able to make then pay.
But the attention kept Harden from dominating the game, as he has so often this season. He scored 24 points (14.6 below his average), on 10-of-18 shooting from the field, including 6-of-10 from beyond the arc.
The Warriors did a tremendous job keeping him off the line, as Harden did not shoot a single free throw in the first half and finished only 0-of-1 from the line.
Russell Westbrook tried to make up for the free-throw shortage and more, scoring 30 points (on 11-of-32 shooting from the field) and making 8-of-8 from the line.
Career game for Damion Lee
To be consistently competitive, the Warriors have long needed scoring from somebody besides D’Angelo Russell and Alec Burks. Damion Lee came through on Wednesday.
As active as he has been at any time this season, the 6-5 guard poured in 22 points, on 5-of-9 shooting from the field, including 2-of-2 from deep and 10-of-10 from the line.
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As impressive as his scoring was, the stunning development was Lee’s work in the land of the giants. He snagged a team-high 15 rebounds.
Without Lee, who scored 17 points in the first half, the Warriors don’t stay close long enough to hang around and outlast the Rockets.