Fast Forward: Warriors look to slay 'old demon' Rockets

Fast Forward: Warriors look to slay 'old demon' Rockets
February 20, 2014, 11:30 am
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(Chandler) Parsons may look like a male model, but he plays with fury and shoots a mean 3-pointer.
Monte Poole
SUBARU KEYS TO THE GAME

1) Controlling Harden, keeping him out of the paint and contesting his 3-pointers.

2) Corralling Howard, who so dominated Andrew Bogut in the Dec. 6 meeting that the big Aussie spent the next month playing in a rage.

3) Defending the 3-pointer. The Rockets love to chuck it, and invite opponents to do the same.

In 27 games this season Steve Blake is averaging 9.5 points and 7.6 assists in 33 minutes per game. (AP)

Programming note: Immediately following tonight's Warriors-Rockets game change the channel to Comcast SportsNet Bay Area for comprehensive postgame coverage

OAKLAND – Warriors coach Mark Jackson often talks about changing the culture of the Warriors. It's progressing nicely but still has a few barriers, one of which comes to Oracle Arena on Thursday night.

The Warriors have a long history of disintegrating at the sight of the Rockets, regardless of who is coaching or playing. Only once since 1987 have the Warriors won the season series, and they won't do it this season because they're already down 2-0.

So this third and final meeting between the teams is, for the Warriors, another opportunity to prove they are not the petrified patsies they used to be.

And, truthfully, the Warriors (32-22) are not what they were in those first two losses to Houston (37-17).

For one, they might have Steve Blake, the backup point guard acquired Wednesday from the Lakers. For two, they will have Jordan Crawford, acquired last month to bring energy off the bench. For three, they will have Andre Iguodala, who missed both December games with a hamstring injury.

Iguodala is particularly important because he's the Warriors' best defender and one of a few NBA players with a chance to contain Houston's smoothly explosive James Harden, who scorched the Warriors for 60 points (34 and 26) in the first two games.

While Iguodala's task sits before him, primary guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are just happy to know additional help is on the way, with Blake arriving maybe as soon as Thursday.

"You know what Steve Blake can bring to a lineup," Curry said. "He has a specific set of skills that will help this team. He'll help this team just like he's helped every team he's been on his whole career."

Said Thompson: "He's scrappy, he a can run a team, plays unselfishly, makes big shots and shoots it well from the arc. That's what we need."

They certainly could use the depth and savvy against Houston, which has won eight in a row and is 16-4 since the calendar turned to 2014.

One the last barriers of cultural change is slaying old demons. The Warriors have a few, the Spurs and Grizzlies to name two more. The Rockets are another, and they're coming in hot.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

Iguodala vs. Harden -- Just because they never faced each other in the Arizona rivalry games – Andre was a Wildcat before Harden was a Sun Devil – doesn't mean there won't be fierce competition.

Bogut/O'Neal vs. Howard -- Howard is among the game's most physical big men, at times dominating the paint. If Bogut can't go, and there's a good chance he won't, the task falls to O'Neal. JO will need lots of help. Where on earth will it come from?

Thompson vs. Chandler Parsons -- If Iguodala gets Harden, as he should, Thompson draws the No. 2 perimeter threat. Parsons may look like a male model, but he plays with fury and shoots a mean 3-pointer.

INJURY REPORT: C Jermaine O'Neal (sore right wrist) is probable. C Bogut (left shoulder inflammation) is doubtful. C Festus Ezeli (right knee surgery) and G Nemanja Nedovic (strained left hamstring, right foot inflammation) are out.

LAST 10: Warriors 6-4, Rockets 8-2.

SERIES HISTORY: Warriors have lost 18 of the last 22 meetings. Since winning four of five in 1986-87, the Warriors have either tied (seven times) or lost (19) the season series all but once.

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