OAKLAND – By eliminating them three times in the last four years, the Warriors can claim to own the Houston Rockets in the postseason. That doesn't mean they can, or should, dismiss the current trend in the regular season.
The Warriors' regular-season losing streak against Houston was extended to four after a 118-112 debacle on Saturday. The Rockets have won the last three at Oracle Arena, and Golden State has lost close games and blowouts. The latest was a combination of both.
Here are some of the positives and negatives, aside from Draymond Green spraining his left ankle, to be taken from a national TV contest between the teams that met nine months ago in the Western Conference Finals:
The wretched start
If there is one team in the NBA that on mere sight should awaken the Warriors, it is the Rockets. Yet Golden State loitered through the first few minutes as if this were a public walkthrough in October.
There was no urgency, no focus, no fire and no sense of purpose. The Warriors earned the humility of being down 15-0 four minutes after tipoff, and 35-20 at the end of the quarter.
They knew how dismal it was; no one bothered with an excuse. They likely were affected by the absence of James Harden, but this was indefensible.
Boogie is banging into walls
DeMarcus Cousins and the Warriors knew there would be a stretch of when he'd level off. It's here, in spades.
Cousins is hitting walls with his conditioning, defensive agility, offensive efficiency and, at times, court awareness. His defense was exploited without mercy Saturday, and he had more turnovers (six) than field goals (four). His efforts to fight through it often strangled the entire offense.
Surprisingly effective in his first few games, Cousins now looks like a misfit. He calls it a "gray area." The Warriors are hoping it turns green, soon. They want to go.
Durant had more highs than lows
Kevin Durant played a team-high 38 minutes, and was a team-high plus-5. More to the point, he was plus-20 over the final three quarters. Aside from a few glaring defensive lapses, he was solid, scoring a game-high 29 points on 11-of-19 shooting, including 3-of-7 from deep.
Amid a team performance rich with blight, he was the closest thing to a bright spot.
Coaches didn't exactly shine
There are many reasons why a championship team would performs so poorly in a marquee game, at home, against a rival. One of the reasons has to fall upon the coaching.
Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni's team showed considerable character in the wake of Harden's injury. Warriors coach Steve Kerr's team lacked anything remotely resembling hunger.
Conceding that the Warriors "weren't prepared to play," Kerr took the blame, saying it was "on me." He's not wrong, but he has plenty of company in the locker room.