Warriors trying to find rhythm entering 'statement' game vs. Rockets

Warriors trying to find rhythm entering 'statement' game vs. Rockets

HOUSTON -- Hours after the Warriors suffered a 115-111 loss to the Suns, Stephen Curry called Wednesday night's matchup against the Rockets a "statement" game.

Conventional wisdom would align with Curry's sentiments, considering the Warriors have lost six of their last 10 games dating to last month. But with Kevin Durant inactive Wednesday with an ankle injury, Golden State's focus has shifted from individual matchups to finding a consistent rhythm over the next 16 games. 

"I think its an important game for us, mainly because we're trying to build momentum and we're trying to gain some traction here late in the season and play better than we have," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Tuesday night. "I'm not sure, especially without Kevin out, I'm not sure what it's going to mean.

"It would be great to beat this team without Kevin, and that's what we're going to work for. We're going to play and we're going to be ready, but whatever happens now isn't going to affect what happens later." 

The Rockets, who have beaten the Warriors in each of the last three matchups, have played well of late, winning their last nine games entering Wednesday's contest. James Harden, the NBA's reigning MVP, is averaging 34.4 points, 6.1 assists and 5.5 rebounds over his last 10 games.

Since the last matchup between the two teams — a 118-112 Houston win — the Rockets have continued to ascend from the bottom of the Western Conference to third in the West entering Wednesday.

"Houston has gotten a lot better since early in the season," Kerr said. "We've probably played Houston 30 times over the last five years ... so they're a great team."

Meanwhile, despite being a game and a half above Denver for the top spot in the West, Golden State finds itself in peril.

In the last week, the Warriors have suffered their worst loss since Kerr was hired in 2014, and lost to Phoenix for the first time in nearly five years. Adding to the troubles, Kerr was caught saying he was "tired" of Draymond Green. While the two have since reconciled, it appears, the optics just highlight the angst in Golden State.

[RELATED: 'It don't bother me': Draymond shrugs off Kerr's comments]

The Warriors have been here before this season. Following an early season spat between Green and Durant, the team lost six of its next 10 games, struggling through the holiday season before bouncing back, winning 16 of 17 from January into the All-Star break. 

The Warriors' latest matchup against the Rockets kicks off a four-game road gauntlet featuring the Thunder and Spurs, before finishing off against the Timberwolves on the second night of a back-to-back.

Prior to the trip, Kerr expressed joy in the team getting back on the road, and hoped that the time together can reconcile any issues that have come up recently. With the playoffs ahead and the last bit of regular season left, there's ample time to get back to the team's latest micro goal: regaining their championship selves. 

"We're just trying to get better ourselves," Kerr said. "We haven't played well, so I don't see don't see any reason to worry about any other team than our own."

NBA rumors: Warriors' Steph Curry targeting March 1 return to lineup

NBA rumors: Warriors' Steph Curry targeting March 1 return to lineup

Steph Curry reportedly is targeting a March 1 return. 

The two-time MVP has not played since breaking his left hand on Oct. 30, and The Athletic's Marcus Thompson has "been told" that Curry hopes to play on March 1 at Chase Center against the Washington Wizards, though the date is not "set in stone."

Curry told Warriors broadcasters Bob Fitzgerald and Kelenna Azubuike during Golden State's win over the Orlando Magic on Saturday that he has had "no setbacks" rehabbing his broken hand. 

"Rehab is going great, every day is tough,” Curry said Saturday. “When you're hurt, and we've all been there in some way shape or form, its a grind, every day kind of being monotonous with the little strength workouts you have to do, and you understanding that it takes time and patience to get back to 100 percent.”

[RELATED: Poole shows even more progress in Dubs' win over Magic]

Curry is traveling to road games with the Warriors, and the 30-year-old has impressed his teammates and coaches during individual shooting drills. Warriors coach Steve Kerr told the "Posted Up" podcast earlier this month that there was an "excellent chance" Curry would return in March. He'll be re-evaluated Feb. 1, and NBC Sports Bay Area's Kerith Burke wrote last week that a minutes restriction is possible as Curry "gets his wind back."

Before Curry is re-evaluated, though, he reportedly already has a timeline in mind. 

Warriors' Jordan Poole showing more progress after bad start to season

Warriors' Jordan Poole showing more progress after bad start to season

SAN FRANCISCO -- With four seconds left in the third quarter of the Warriors' 190-95 win over Magic on Saturday, Jordan Poole ran full speed to the right-wing with a bucket on his mind. 

Sprinting alongside teammate Omari Spellman, Poole received a pass from the big man, pump faked, took a dribble and drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer, pushing the Warriors lead to 11. 

Walking to the bench, Poole had both arms in the air, and was yelling "Yeahhhh" towards the crowd. Similar plays have been the norm for Poole over the last week as he gradually digs himself out a bad start to his rookie season. 

"He's starting to figure out where his spots are," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "Where his spots are and his comfort zone and how to impact a game." 

Remnants of Poole's improvement were on display early Saturday night. After Golden State went down 13-0 four and a half minutes into the contest, Poole scored 11 first-quarter points, helping Golden State take a 28-25 lead by the end of the period. Poole totaled 21 points for the game, including four 3-pointers, providing another example of his evolution. In his past three outings, Poole is averaging 16 points on 45 percent from the field. 

Such stretches are uncommon considering the start of Poole's career. During his first 29 games -- with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson out of the lineup -- he shot just 25 percent, prompting a demotion to the G League. While his shot was ineffective, it was his propensity to not give all-out effort that drew ire of the coaching staff. On his way down to Santa Cruz, Kerr gave him a player that he'd like Poole to use a blueprint for success: Pelicans guard JJ Redick. More specifically, the shooter's habit of constant movement on the defensive end, complimented by his shooting ability. 

Poole followed suit during his G League stint, averaging 26 points, 5.3 assists and 1.3 steals in three games. The performance has carried over back to the NBA, as he's making 42 percent of his 3-pointers over his last three games. But he showed his  growth six minutes into the third quarter Saturday, when he fought through two screens, moved his feet on Magic guard Evan Fournier before stripping the guard, causing a fast break on the other end, prompting praise from his coach and teammates along the way.  

"He's doing better on defense, handling the ball and making plays," Kerr said. "The game is so fast at this level. Everything happens much faster, so whether you are defending somebody or having to get over a screen or leave a rotation or if you have the ball and you are trying to make a pass, everything just happens quicker than you are used to. I think the time in Santa Cruz helped him gain more confidence and maybe the game has slowed down a bit ... He just looks more confident and comfortable."

"I think his approach has been better," teammate D'Angelo Russell added. "I think that's what's contributed to him successfully on the court. Not just worrying about his shots but his demeanor, his approach is business-like."

Poole's progression comes as the Warriors are in transition. As he works towards a long-term role, organizational cornerstones Curry and Thompson are working their way back from injuries, while Russell -- an All-Star guard -- is giving 20-year old daily lessons on how to be a pro.

[RELATED: Paschall regains form after tough stretch]

"I'm like a kid in the candy store, especially being able to have Steph, Klay and [Russell]," Poole said on Warriors Postgame Live. "I'm in awe every day. You wouldn't want to be in any other situation." 

As Poole celebrated his buzzer-beater, Curry sat on a makeshift stage, soaking in the rookie's latest step as a pro, leaving compliments along the way. 

"The way that he's fought through his early-season struggles and gone down to Santa Cruz, really able to work on his game, see the floor, get his rhythm and shoot the ball the way he's been doing the last few games," Curry said during NBC Sports Bay Area's broadcast. "That's what an NBA player is made of. It's not going to be pretty but you got to keep coming back to try and make it work."