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.
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."