HOUSTON • The Golden State Warriors have gone from five All-Stars in their starting line-up to none and three rookies in Eric Paschall, Ky Bowman and Jordan Poole as they took on the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.
Even James Harden felt sorry for the decimated visitors, who were missing Draymond Green and D'Angelo Russell for the third successive National Basketball Association (NBA) game, as well as long-term absentees Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry.
The Houston guard, who had a game-high 36 points and 13 assists in the Rockets' 129-112 win at the Toyota Centre, said he hoped "those guys will get back in the court soon".
After sending last season's NBA finalists - who were paced by 28 points from Alec Burks - to their sixth defeat in their past eight games, Harden noted "this is the league, injuries happen" and the hosts can "build something great" with Golden State in transition.
His 292 points across the first eight games represents the league's highest points total since Michael Jordan had 303 from the same number of games in the 1988-89 season.
The 2018 Most Valuable Player also believes they are positioned to end their 24-year Finals drought.
"I pick and choose when I have to be aggressive. We're getting there game by game. We don't really practise a lot, we're a veteran team," he said. "Coach (Mike D'Antoni) leaves it up to us to go out there and compete at a high level.
"We work on our condition in that way. Individually, we have to make sure we're on that, and as a team, we have to make sure we're on that."
While things are looking up for the Rockets (5-3), it will be a few more grim weeks on the injury front for Steve Kerr's players.
Russell may return from an ankle sprain in Minnesota today, but Green will miss at least three more games after ligament damage to his finger, while Kevon Looney will be out for at least two more weeks with "nerve-related symptoms" .
Without their experienced stars, the Warriors, whose 2-6 start is their worst since the 2011-12 season, have been forced to throw their rookies into the fire and Paschall admitted guarding Harden "was just hard".
"He's so dynamic and he's a great passer," the forward, who had 19 points, said. "And during his (isolation plays), you can't really touch him because he's so smart on how he draws the fouls.
Rookies in Golden State's starting five in Houston: Eric Paschall, Ky Bowman and Jordan Poole.
"As a team, we did a good job in the first half, but then he got hot and started hitting threes."
In Los Angeles, Giannis Antetokounmpo had a game-high 38 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a 129-124 victory over the Clippers, who played without Finals Most Valuable Player Kawhi Leonard owing to "load management".
Montrezl Harrell scored a career-high 34 points for the hosts, who dropped to 5-3.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS