HOUSTON • The Houston Rockets have sent multiple signals of their intent to dethrone the Golden State Warriors, and the National Basketball Association (NBA) champions have taken notice.
The messages have come in the form of acquiring All-Star Chris Paul and defensive specialists PJ Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute. But, as the Warriors showed on Thursday, the Rockets without their most important component in James Harden are no match for them.
In a clash of the league's top two offensive forces, Stephen Curry scored 29 points and Draymond Green notched a record-setting triple-double to propel Golden State to a 124-114 win in Houston on Thursday.
"They've obviously reshaped their line-up and have been playing amazing in the regular season," Curry told The Mercury News after the Warriors avenged their loss to Houston on the opening night of the season. "You have to assume they'll be one of the last teams standing in the Western Conference. We hope to be there."
Golden State remain the team to beat as they improved their league-leading record to 31-8 in the absence of Kevin Durant after the All-Star forward suffered a strained right calf on Wednesday.
Andre Iguodala stepped into Durant's starting role and contributed 10 points and seven assists.
Green's 17 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists made him the franchise's leader in triple-doubles with 21. He passed Tom Gola who played for the team from 1955 to 1962.
DRAYMOND GREEN'S FRANCHISE RECORD
Klay Thompson added 28 points for the Warriors, who never trailed in the fourth quarter, pushing their lead to as many as 14 points.
His lay-up gave Golden State a 101-91 edge with 9min 57sec left. The Rockets were within 115-108 on Paul's three-pointer with 3min 39sec left before the Warriors scored the next seven points to wrap up the victory.
"They've had our attention," Thompson told The Mercury News. "Any time you add Chris Paul to your team, a Hall of Famer, along with the cast they already have, it not only grabs our attention, but everyone else around the league."
Houston played their second straight game without the league's leading scorer Harden, who is out for at least a fortnight with a hamstring injury.
Eric Gordon led the Rockets with 30 points. Gerald Green came off the bench to score 29, matching his career high with eight three-pointers, and Paul added 28 points and nine assists.
The Rockets might have fallen to 27-10 - three games behind the Warriors atop the Western Conference - but they warned their rivals that they will continue to improve.
"That's a team that moves the ball well, they cut, they've been together forever," Paul told ESPN.
"We've got to clean up some things, but we'll be OK."
Even in defeat, another message was delivered.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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