Monte Poole

NBA Gameday: Warriors visit Rockets looking to avenge early-season loss

NBA Gameday: Warriors visit Rockets looking to avenge early-season loss

Four days after avenging one of their six losses, the Warriors get another chance for revenge on an opponent that knocked them off last month.

This time, it’s the Rockets, who greet the Warriors Friday night at Toyota Center. After evening their season series with the Cavaliers on Monday, the Warriors will seek to do the same in Houston.

The Warriors (36-6) have won five in a row, averaging nearly 120 points per game behind a more aggressive Stephen Curry.

The Rockets (33-12) have been the surprise team of the league this season. Generally projected to win between 42 and 48 games, they are on pace to win 60.

BETTING LINE

Warriors by 5.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Klay Thompson vs. James Harden: In his first season as an officially designated point guard Harden has been playing at MVP level. He leads the league in assists and has been a top-3 scorer all season. Thompson’s defense is not as consistently solid as in previous seasons. He knows Harden well, dating back to their days as prep stars in Southern California and fully understands he’ll have to bring his best, while also getting help from his teammates.

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: C/F David West (L thumb fracture) is listed as out.

Rockets: F Ryan Anderson (flu) is listed as questionable.

LAST 10

Warriors: 9-1. Rockets: 7-3.

SERIES HISTORY

The Rockets prevailed in the first meeting this season, 132-127 in double overtime, on Dec. 1, but the Warriors have won nine of the last 12 overall. The Warriors have won the last four meetings in Houston.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

THE FIREWORKS: The Warriors and Rockets rank 1-2 in points and also true-shooting percentage. Houston launches a league-high 40 3-pointers per game. The Warriors, at 30.6, are tied for fifth. If the clubs stay true to form, that’s 71 triples. Don’t go near the scoreboard unless you want to get burned.

THE GIVEAWAYS: Insofar as both teams tend to give it up -- only four teams commit more turnovers than these two -- they could offset each other here. Both fire threes in transition. The crucial element is live-ball turnovers, as a decided advantage goes to the team that exploits them best.

THE BENCHES: Over the last 10 games, Shaun Livingston is shooting 66 percent and Andre Iguodala is at 63.6. They will need to continue their offensive efficiency to overcome the loss of David West while also neutralizing Sixth Man of the Year leader Eric Gordon, who leads the league in 3-pointers.

Zaza on All-Star vote spotlight: 'This is a special moment'

Zaza on All-Star vote spotlight: 'This is a special moment'

Zaza Pachulia was the People’s Choice. The Warriors center received 1,528,941 votes from fans eager to see him start in the NBA All-Star Game.

Pachulia in the final fan voting announced Thursday finished behind only teammate Kevin Durant among frontcourt players in the Western Conference. Zaza had more votes than Spurs star Kawhi Leonard (1,058,941) or Pelicans star Anthony Davis (974,802), both of whom will be starting for the West. 

With an extremely strong showing from voters in his native land, the Republic of Georgia, Pachulia finished precisely 613,068 votes ahead of Warriors teammate Draymond Green, who was an All-Star last season.

Yet Pachulia won’t join the All-Stars that flock to New Orleans from Feb. 16-19. The NBA prior to the season changed the voting procedure to ensure fans didn’t have complete control of the starting lineups.

Once the province of fan voting, the starting lineups are determined by a combination of fan voting (50 percent), player voting (25 percent) and media voting (25 percent). This way, a strong showing among fans hardly ensures a starting spot.

Some refer to this alteration as The Zaza Rule, as it was instituted Pachulia nearly made the team last season as a member of the Dallas Mavericks.

And Pachulia is OK with that. He made it clear weeks ago, when his numbers were dwarfing those of players who have made multiple All-Star appearances, the most important aspect of the voting was not how he finished but the incredible support of his fellow Georgians.

“It’s such an overwhelming situation,” Pachulia said a couple weeks ago. “You’re not talking about a couple of thousand (votes). There’s hundreds of thousands. And with such a small country like Georgia, there are only 3.5 million people. The whole country’s involved in it.”

Pachulia, in fact, saw the humor in the matter. He knows his stats don’t compare to those of the league’s elite big men. He knows there is no single element of his game that the average fan would find irresistible.

He even knows he doesn’t belong in the NBA’s showcase game, with many of the players destined for the Hall of Fame.

“It’s just happening. All I can do is just sit back and enjoy and be thankful -- be really thankful -- for all of this,” Pachulia said. “Because I’m telling you, like you can get as mad as you want, you can be as happy as you want, but you can’t buy this. This is a special moment and I really appreciate the support. And that’s what I care about.

“I don’t care about being an All-Star, the fame that comes with it, the recognition that comes with it. I care about the support and the love I’m getting.”

Believe him. He’d prefer to enjoy the time with his family even more than he would have enjoyed the game itself.

Steph Curry, Kevin Durant named starters in 2017 All-Star Game

Steph Curry, Kevin Durant named starters in 2017 All-Star Game

Warriors guard Stephen Curry has been voted to start the NBA All-Star Game for the fourth consecutive season, and this time there was a measure of suspense.

Curry will join Rockets guard James Harden in the backcourt for the Western Conference squad, as voters snubbed MVP candidate and triple-double specialist Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City.

Joining Curry and Harden in the starting lineup for the West will be Warriors forward Kevin Durant, Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard and Pelicans forward/center Anthony Davis.

A combination of fan balloting (50 percent), player balloting (25 percent) and media balloting (25 percent) comprises the overall vote.

Curry’s selection is sure to generate considerable debate, as Westbrook leads the league in scoring (30.6 points per game), is second in assists and 11th (10.4) in rebounding (10.6). Westbrook also leads the league in PER at 29.56.

Moreover, he is bidding to become the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62 to average a triple-double over the course of a full season.

Coming off back-to-back MVP seasons, Curry ranks 12th in scoring (24.6 points per game), 15th in assists (6.1), second in 3-pointers made (158) and eighth in steals (1.81). His 92.6-percent shooting from the line ranks second in the NBA.

He is the first Warrior since Wilt Chamberlain to start four straight All-Star games.

Durant, in his first season with the Warriors, leads the team in scoring (26.2) and blocks (1.71) and double-doubles (16). He’s second in rebounding (8.6) and third in assists (4.7). His 54.4-percent shooting from the field is 10th in the league and tops among perimeter players.

Durant will be making his eighth appearance, and his fifth as a starter.

The Eastern Conference starters are as follows: guards Kyrie Irving of the Cavaliers and DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors, with frontcourt players LeBron James of the Cavs, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks and Jimmy Butler of the Bulls.

All-Star reserves, which are chosen by NBA coaches, will be announced on Jan. 26.