Warriors face tall-task against high-octane Rockets
The Warriors lost three of four to Houston last season, and 14 of the 16 games prior to that. (USATSI)
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OAKLAND – If the Warriors are to achieve their goal of joining the NBA's elite, they'll have to overcome their own personal bullies, those teams that see them coming and presume victory.
They'll be facing such a squad on Friday when they step into Houston's Toyota Center to play the Rockets.
The Warriors lost three of four to Houston last season, and 14 of the 16 games prior to that. They've been beaten by stars and busted by subs. And now that the Rockets have two legitimate All-Stars – big man Dwight Howard and guard James Harden – they should be on the road to improvement.
"They are a talented, well-coached basketball team that can score in a variety of ways,'' Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "James Harden is a handful, with his ability to create offense, get to the free-throw line, play the pick-and-roll and in isolation situations.
"And they added Dwight Howard, a dominant big man. It's a tall task to try to contain that team, which we recognized last year, and the challenges have only increased.''
But the Rockets (13-7), like the Warriors (11-8), are dealing with injuries to those within their playing rotation. Center Omer Asik is out with a thigh contusion. Guard Jeremy Lin, recovering from a strained knee, is day to day, as is starting forward Chandler Parsons, who has been limited by a troublesome back.
[RELATED: CSN Houston -- Jeremy Lin expected back soon]
If the game becomes a shootout, which is a distinct possibility, the Warriors won't have to look far for inspiration. They overcome a 27-point deficit on Wednesday, coming back for a 112-103 win over Toronto.
"We didn't give up,'' center Andrew Bogut said. "Have to give our guys credit, everybody, and coach made some good adjustments and we won the game.''
Jackson took it step further.
"What happens is if you're ever in a hole, or you build a lead like that, you understand that you've got to finish a team off or there's plenty of time to still mount a comeback,'' the coach said. ``So now you have something to go back to, rather than preach something that you've never experienced.''
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Bogut vs. Howard. It's a classic battle of physical players that are comfortable with contact. Howard looks to score, while Bogut is content to pick up scraps around the basket. If Howard doesn’t dominate the game, Bogut wins the battle.
Klay Thompson vs. James Harden: A duel between players familiar with each other from the 2008-09 season in the old Pac-10, when Thompson attended Washington State and Harden went to Arizona State. Thompson's biggest challenge will be keeping Harden out of the paint and off the free throw line. Among NBA stars, only Howard and Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant get to the line more often – Howard partly because teams opt to put him there.
KEYS TO VICTORY: Both teams like to run and both love to shoot the 3-pointer; Houston actually shoots it more than the Warriors. The Rockets are a strong rebounding team, so a standoff there benefits the Warriors. There is a very good chance, indeed, that the team that owns the glass will emerge victorious.
INJURY REPORT: Backup point guard Toney Douglas (stress reaction, left tibia) has missed the last 12 games but practiced on Thursday, is with the team and has been upgraded to probable. Forward Andre Iguodala (strained left hamstring) has missed the last six games and did not practice Thursday. He is with the team but is doubtful.
ROSTER ROULETTE: Backup center Dewayne Dedmon was waived on Thursday but Jackson says he still believes the USC product is an NBA player and will make it in the league. There is no coinciding roster move at this time.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Warriors take on their third road back-to-back this season when they meet Grizzlies in Memphis on Saturday night. The Warriors have lost their last 11 games against the Grizzlies, and have lost nine in a row at the FedEx Forum.