Warriors coach Mark Jackson’s worry following the team’s first two wins of its current seven-game homestand was that the level of play wouldn’t be good enough against better competition.
He was proved right Friday night.
Golden State might have actually played better than it did in its previous two games, but still fell 94-88 to Houston Friday at Oracle Arena.
The win pulls Houston (34-29) to within a game of the Warriors (35-28) for the No. 6 spot in the Western Conference standings.
[RELATED: NBA standings]
Harrison Barnes missed a potential game-tying look with under a minute to play and Jeremy Lin hit a pair of free throws to extend Houston’s lead to 92-88 with 44.4 seconds left.
It was a good look for Barnes, but Jackson said he would have preferred the rookie to take it to the basket in what he perceived as an advantageous matchup against Carlos Delfino.
“In that situation, I want him to feel like he can make a play,” Jackson said. “The ball found him and he took a shot.
“If he makes that shot it’s a great move, but he’s going to learn.”
A three-point attempt from Stephen Curry on the Warriors’ following possession was off the mark and after James Harden turned it over with 13 seconds left, David Lee gave it right back to seal the Warriors’ fate. Harden was fouled again and hit both free throws to provide the final margin.
The Rockets improved to 3-0 against Golden State this season with a pair of wins in Oakland.
Defensively, Jackson was happy with the Warriors’ effort. They limited the league’s top scoring team to 14 points under its season average and 46 less than in the first meeting in Houston.
“We’ve proved that we can defend them. We’ve proved that it can be done,” Jackson said. “That’s a tough team to contain with defending the pick-and-roll and isolations. The difference was they got to the line.”
Houston was 25-of-34 from the free-throw line to the Warriors who were just 13-of-20.
Following a three from Klay Thompson, Houston’s Chandler Parsons got inside for two of his game-high 26 points to put the Rockets up 86-82 with 4:43 left.
Jarrett Jack knocked down a pair of free throws on the Warriors’ next possession before a Lin turnover preceded a drive from Barnes, which tied the game at 86 with 3:49 on the clock.
After Harden extended the lead to three after two trips to the free-throw line, Curry fed Lee for a dunk to make it 89-88 Houston with 2:06 left. Due to a first-quarter knee injury, Lee was slow to get back on offense following the next Houston possession, but remained in the game.
Moments later, Harden drew another foul and split his free-throw attempts to make it 90-88 with 1:09 left.
Curry was 8-of-21 from the field and finished with 24 points, while Thompson was 9-for-20 and scored 22.
Sporting their yellow, short-sleeved jerseys for the second time, Golden State showed mild improvement in taking care of the ball, but still gave it away 16 times, which led to 13 points for Houston.
Lee left the game with 4:36 left in the first quarter with a right knee contusion. He was originally listed as questionable to return, but did so to begin the second half. Lee had 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting in just seven first-half minutes. When Lee left, the Warriors held a 21-17 lead.
“I initially, when I came back into the locker room, could hardly put any weight on it,” Lee said. “Whenever I straightened it out, it would really hurt.
“But I’ve been waiting eight years to be in a playoff race so when the doctors told me most likely I couldn’t do anything worse to hurt it … if I could walk I could play, so that’s what I decided to do.”
Lee’s status for Saturday’s game against Milwaukee is up in the air.
“We’ll just have to see how I feel tomorrow morning,” he said. “As you know, if I can go, I’ll definitely be going.”
The Warriors upped their lead to 13 with 6:39 left the second quarter, but Houston closed on a 21-7 run to take a 50-48 lead into the half. Golden State was just 1-for-10 from the field in the final 4:30 of the half.
Harden had a tough day from the field for the Rockets. He connected on just 3-of-17 shots and finished with 20 points, aided greatly by a 11-of-14 performance at the line.
Andrew Bogut hit the second three-pointer of his career with the shot clock winding down in the third quarter. He improved to 2-of-23 from behind the arc in his NBA career.
#WarriorsTalk Tweet of the Game
Stern Impressed by Warriors
NBA commissioner David Stern has high praise for the Warriors prior to Friday’s game.
“It’s great to be here, the Warriors are having a terrific season,” Stern said. “I know that their attendance is great, their radio and television ratings are up, the team seems to be headed to the playoffs, but stay tuned to the last exciting weeks of the season and they’ve got some very exciting plans for a state-of-the-art building for the Bay Area. This is a franchise that is very much on the move and we’re very excited about it.”
Stern later called the franchise “the model we’d like to see followed throughout the league.”
Next up – Milwaukee
Monta Ellis makes his second return trip to Oracle Arena since being traded with Ekpe Udoh for Andrew Bogut last March. His previous appearance was his first as a Buck -- a 120-98 Milwaukee win.
Ellis has averaged 18.8 points and 5.7 assists this season for the Bucks, who at 30-29 sit in the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
Chicago 89, Utah 88: The Jazz (32-30) lost their third straight game and its lead over the Lakers for the No. 8 playoff spot has shrunk to a half game.
Lakers 118, Raptors 116 (OT): Los Angeles (32-31) used another second-half comeback to erase a 15-point deficit for its second straight win. Kobe Bryant hit a three with five seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime then scored the go-ahead bucket with 10 seconds left in extra time.
Portland 136, San Antonio 106: The Trail Blazers (29-32) handed the Spurs their most lopsided defeat of the season for their third win in four games. Portland finishes its three-game road trip at New Orleans on Saturday before returning home for home games against Memphis, New York and Detroit. Portland is two games behind the Lakers.
Dallas 102, Detroit 99: Seven players scored in double figures as Dallas (28-33), continues to hang around in the hunt for a playoff berth. The Mavericks sit a game behind Portland.