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Warriors still flummoxing Rockets in high-profile games

The Warriors and Rockets developed quite a rivalry. Nobody challenged peak Golden State like Houston did. Still, the Warriors eliminated the Rockets four of the last five seasons.

These aren’t the same Warriors.

But the Warriors still brought Houston down to their level in a 116-104 Christmas win.

Golden State frequently trapped James Harden, even at half court. Though they have faced similar defenses throughout the season, the Rockets looked out of sorts Wednesday.

Harden got held to just 24 points on 18 shots, though he dished 11 assists. Most startlingly, Harden attempted only one free throw, a miss.

Russell Westbrook led Houston with 30 points, but he shot just 11-for-32, including 0-8 on 3-pointers. The Rockets’ role players didn’t capitalize on the attention their stars drew. Beyond its starting backcourt, Houston shot just 30% on 3-pointers against an energetic Golden State defense.

The Warriors were unselfish offensively with several players stepping up – Damion Lee (22 points, 15 rebounds, four assists), Draymond Green (20 points, 11 rebounds, three assists), D’Angelo Russell (20 points, four assists) and Glenn Robinson III (18 points, three assists).

Golden State remains near the bottom of the standings. Houston is still in the championship hunt.

Still, this was a satisfying victory for the Warriors, who’ve now won three straight.

For the Rockets, it’s another lesson in the challenges of relying so much on a single player. Expect Houston to face even more defenses like this. Also expect the Rockets to have better outcomes against this style.