OAKLAND • The Houston Rockets might just have the Golden State Warriors' number this season.
Saturday's 118-112 National Basketball Association win at the Oracle Arena was the visitors' third in three meetings with Golden State, and it was accomplished without James Harden, who has scored 30 or more points in 32 consecutive games, the second-longest run in league history.
While the Rockets know their season will only be judged when the play-offs come around, Eric Gordon feels they are the Warriors' "toughest opponents".
The guard, who paced his team with 25 points, told ESPN: "We've got to continue playing, trying to be a championship team. They know who they are. This is another game for them, but this is a special night for us."
Teammate Clint Capela agreed the team were ready to take the next step in their evolution, having pushed the two-time defending champions to Game 7 in the Western Conference Finals last May.
The centre, who added eight points, said: "We have a team that has a lot of potential...
"Obviously, it's just the regular season. I'm not going to get fired up like last year. I'm just going to stay focused on one game at a time and thinking about the play-offs because we all know in the play-offs, it's a different atmosphere."
BUSINESS END OF THE SEASON
In the play-offs, it's when you've got to beat a team four out of seven times.
CHRIS PAUL, Houston guard, delineating the difference between regular-and post-season games
However, despite Houston pulling off the upset, Chris Paul insisted it "meant nothing".
The guard, whose 23 points and 17 assists helped to offset Harden's absence owing to a strained neck and the flu, added: "You can come in here and win on a Monday night in February or a Tuesday night in November or December.
"But, in the play-offs, it's when you've got to beat a team four out of seven times.
"It's great we won tonight but, in two days, you'll forget this. We all will."
The Rockets (34-25) can seal the regular-season sweep against the Warriors (42-17) on March 13 in Houston.
Elsewhere, the New Orleans Pelicans got off to a hot start despite missing Anthony Davis, cruising to a 128-115 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at the Smoothie King Centre.
The Pelicans scored 42 points in the opening quarter, the most in any quarter this season, with their star centre rested after playing on Friday night at the Indiana Pacers.
Jrue Holiday led the hosts with 27 points, while Julius Randle scored 24 points against the team who drafted him in the first round five years ago, but did not re-sign him last summer.
LeBron James paced the Lakers with 27 points, but could not prevent the visitors from slipping further behind in the play-off race.
They are now 31/2 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the eighth and final play-off spot in the West.