Rockets-Warriors Not the Christmas Matchup the NBA Wanted

James Harden and the Rockets head to Golden State for a Christmas Day game that is a little below expectation.
James Harden and the Rockets head to Golden State for a Christmas Day game that is a little below expectation. Photo by Eric Sauseda
In a recent interview with Warriors stalwart forward Draymond Green, he was asked what he would tell his young teammates about playing the Rockets on Christmas Day. He responded, "They let us keep the ABC game?"

It's a legitimate question as the Warriors sit at the bottom of the Western Conference, the victim of multiple injuries and the defection of Kevin Durant to the East Coast. With so many years of excellence, it was bound to happen that Golden State took a tumble, but few could have imagined it would be this fast or this far.

And the Association probably didn't hesitate scheduling the Rockets and Warriors for Christmas Day, the league's unofficial first day of the season when they don't have to compete with anything but family gatherings, which often tune in for the entire day and slate of games. Even without Klay Thompson, it was thought Golden State would still be one of the better Western Conference teams. Ditto the Rockets.

One of those Christmas wishes came true.

The Warriors, missing Steph Curry, Thompson and Green for much of the early part of the season, sit at the literal bottom of the conference at 7-24. (Assuming they hold out Curry and Thompson for a year of "rest" they could wind up with the top pick in the draft, a scary proposition for the West, but that's for later.)

On the other hand, the Rockets have...ahem...rocketed into third place in the West at 21-9, just a half game behind the Nuggets and three games back of the Lakers thanks to four straight wins on a West Coast road swing that included a huge comeback win against the Clippers.

Some of the battles between the Warriors and Rockets over the last five years have been epic, even if Golden State has come out in the W column more frequently than not. They have constituted the greatest roadblock to the Rockets' title aspirations (well, that and a pulled Chris Paul hamstring), as well as the desires of nearly every other team in the NBA.

But, no one has been quite as vexed by Curry, Thompson, Green and Durant as the team in Houston. Wednesday's Christmas Day game won't exactly be the equivalent of sweet revenge. That would only come in the playoffs and against a team that resembled something more than a shadow of its former self.

Still, a game is a game and when it is a national TV slot on the busiest day of the league's season, it's special, even if Draymond Green can't figure out why he or the Warriors are playing.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke