SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Russell Westbrook vowed to better control his emotions down the stretch of the regular season. They sometimes get the better of him and he realizes he’s under the watchful eye of referees because of his reputation, but he won’t ever back down.
James Harden had 29 points and 10 assists, Westbrook added 21 points and 10 assists before being ejected, and the Houston Rockets beat the cold-shooting Golden State Warriors 135-105 on Thursday night in the teams’ first game back from the All-Star break.
Things got testy with 6:04 to play when Westbrook tussled with several Warriors, including bumping Damion Lee but “it wasn’t on purpose.” After a replay review, Westbrook received his second technical of the night and was ejected.
“I’m always the one that gets painted to be a bad guy in the whole situation,” Westbrook said, hinting he might review his technicals to see whether he has a case to get one rescinded.
“… I’m in a position of like, ‘Oh well, Russ is being Russ,’ which nobody knows what that means. But I’ve got to do a better job of holding myself accountable to a very, very high standard. I will make sure I leave no room for error to allow somebody and people to paint me out to be a guy that I’m not. I think it’s unfair that after all that I’m the only one that gets a tech or kicked out. That’s not fair”
P.J. Tucker scored 15 points. He made all five of his 3-pointers as the Rockets knocked down 25 total — a franchise record allowed by the Warriors. Houston set an NBA record with 27 3s in a win against the Suns last April.
Robert Covington added 20 points as the Rockets ran away with this one early after losing 116-104 at Chase Center on Christmas Day.
Andrew Wiggins scored 22 points in the Warriors’ fifth straight loss and also their fifth consecutive at home. Draymond Green dished out seven assists after getting nine in each of his previous two games.
“He’s one of those guys people have said he’s overrated now for a couple years,” coach Steve Kerr said of Wiggins. “He’s become underrated.”
The Rockets, missing guard Eric Gordon for a third straight game with a bruised left leg, raced to a 16-4 lead.
Westbrook was hit with a technical foul at the 7:38 mark of the first quarter, when the Rockets made 8 of 12 3-pointers to take control. Harden shot just 6 for 16 from the field — 3 of 12 on 3s — but made 14 of 15 free throws.
Golden State started 5 of 16 and missed its initial 11 3-point attempts. When Jordan Poole finally connected from deep with 4:52 left in first half, Houston already had 13 3s.
Klay Thompson will not play the rest of the regular season as has been the plan all along, though the Warriors said it definitively before the game.
Thompson tore the ACL in his left knee last June 13 during the deciding Game 6 of the NBA Finals against Toronto and had surgery July 2. He was re-evaluated over the All-Star break and the team said Stephen Curry’s Splash Brother is expected to be ready to go for training camp in late September.
“It’s been a very frustrating year for Klay but I think he’s almost out of the woods,” Kerr said. “He’s a couple months away from this season ending and him moving toward a summer of preparing for the next season with his teammates, so I think that’s a much better place for him to be emotionally.”
An update on Curry’s recovery and progress from a broken left hand is planned for Feb. 28 and he expects to be back on the court in March.
Rockets: Coach Mike D’Antoni hopes Gordon could be back as soon as Saturday at Utah. … Houston has won the last two season series against Golden State after losing three straight. … The Rockets have won seven of the last 10 in the series after losing 11 of 12 from February 2014 to March 2017. … The Rockets also have won four of five on the road against the Warriors after dropping five of the previous six. … Houston is 10-10 on the road vs. the Western Conference.
Warriors: Wiggins notched his fourth straight season reaching 100 3s. He has scored in double figures for a career-high 65 straight games, all 46 this year and four with the Warriors since joining Golden State in a trade from Minnesota. … The Warriors were looking to sign Dragan Bender to a 10-day contract, with Kerr noting, “It’s trending that way.” … Rookie Poole scored in double figures for a career-best fifth straight game. … The Warriors stuck with their same starting lineup coming out of the break. Kerr has used 27 different starting rotations already, tied for the most in his six seasons with the 27 he used in 2017-18. … Golden State plays at Houston in the teams’ final meeting April 2.
SMALL BALL A NECESSITY
D’Antoni chuckled as he explained Houston’s small-ball approach when asked about how he used to decide when to go big or small.
“I don’t have to worry about that now,” D’Antoni said. “I couldn’t make that decision so I decided to just give me no choice. You’re assuming we have a strategy, we’re going to play small. We don’t need to go big. Our team is better this way and if we’re going to dive in we might as well go all the way in.”
Warriors: Host the Pelicans on Sunday to continue a four-game homestand.
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