D'Angelo Russell, Warriors Stun James Harden and Russell Westbrook's Rockets

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 25: D'Angelo Russell #0 of the Golden State Warriors shoots the ball against the Houston Rockets on December 25, 2019 at Chase Center in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
David Sherman/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets couldn't get past the Golden State Warriors when they had Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant on the floor.

Looks like they can't without them, either.

Damion Lee had 22 points and 15 rebounds, and D'Angelo Russell and Draymond Green added 20 apiece as the Warriors earned a 116-104 win over the Rockets on Christmas Day.

The win is Golden State's third in a row after failing to win consecutive games all season until this streak.

Houston shot just 37.0 percent from the floor, including a 16-of-51 mark from three. Russell Westbrook struggled mightily throughout, finishing with 30 points on 11-of-32 shooting. James Harden finished with 24 points.

     

Notable Stats

Rockets

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G James Harden: 24 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals

G Russell Westbrook: 30 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists

C Clint Capela: 10 points, 11 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block

     

Warriors

G Damion Lee: 22 points, 15 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals

F Draymond Green: 20 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists

G D'Angelo Russell: 20 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block

     

The Rockets Have a Russell Westbrook Problem

A week ago, the Rockets defeated the Los Angeles Clippers in large part because Westbrook had a Russ Game. He chucked the ball up 31 times as Harden played mostly in a malaise, almost single-handedly leading Houston back from a 15-point halftime deficit.

Today, the Rockets lost in large part because Westbrook had a Russ Game. He chucked up the ball 32 times this time, including eight three-pointers—all of which went clanging off the rim. Some of the shots were your typical, egregious off-the-dribble shots you've come to expect from Westbrook. Others were the product of the Warriors having absolutely no respect for Westbrook as a jump-shooter.

This is a problem:

Maybe the relationship between Chris Paul and Harden was fatally flawed to the point of no return. From a basketball standpoint, though, no one is ever giving Paul this much room in a half-court set. If they did, Paul would pull up and bury them. Westbrook pulls up and buries the Rockets more times than not.

The Rockets are scoring less when Westbrook is on the floor. He's making under a quarter of his threes after this garish 0-of-8 performance.

Houston is helplessly capped out, and Westbrook is under contract for three more seasons after this one. Not exactly ideal given how things have gone so far in year one.

     

Warriors Win Troll Game in Lost Season

The Warriors are one of the worst teams in basketball and are essentially taking a basketball gap year. This roster is constructed of a bunch of mismatched parts Warriors brass likely hopes will spring one or two role players the team can carry into next season.

That said, it has to feel good for the Warriors to get one over on Houston in this state. The Rockets have seemingly been obsessed with getting past the Warriors for the better part of a half-decade and couldn't even do it on Christmas against this group.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr will undoubtedly downplay the win—as he should, given the rivalry being on pause for at least this year—but this was a team-building moment. Lee outplayed Westbrook and Harden in a nationally televised game. Green hit the 20-point mark for the first time all season.

The Warriors are winners of three straight games and might be finally coalescing into a group that can play competitive basketball every night.

That's a win for the coaching job Kerr has done this season in adverse conditions.

     

What's Next?

The Rockets return to the floor Saturday to host the Brooklyn Nets. The Warriors host the Phoenix Suns on Friday.