Klay Thompson, Warriors win battle of the best shooting guards

Warriors avoid two-game slide (1:36)

Playing their second game without Steph Curry, the Warriors bounce back from a loss to the Mavericks behind Klay Thompson's 38-point game and hold off the Rockets 114-110. (1:36)

HOUSTON – A few days before Christmas, Klay Thompson, the All-Star shooting guard and one-half of the Golden State Warriors' Splash Brothers, made a proclamation he’s the best at his position.

"I'm going to go with myself," Thompson said according to the Bay Area News Group. “We’re 26-1.”

James Harden, another All-Star, who finished second in the MVP voting to Thompson’s better half in the Splash Brothers duo, Stephen Curry, dismissed it. Harden seemed amused by it, saying whatever motivates a person is basically his own business.

Finally he added, “But we really know what’s going on.”

Thursday night at the Toyota Center it seemed Thompson and Harden played to a standstill. Thompson finished with a game-high 38 points in the 114-110 victory over the Houston Rockets. Harden finished with 30 points and probably should have had at least 10 assists, but officially had five.

Harden’s teammates failed to consistently finish shots on his passes, particularly toward the end of a close game.

Harden fought off constant bodies his way, Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala, Ian Clark and Thompson, that turned him into a distributor.

“That’s kind of like our identity, defensively we can switch up different bodies on the wing,” Livingston said. “He’s obviously a great player, a great scorer, just try to make it hard on him.”

The Rockets, who have lost their past three games, just didn’t finish. One of those final plays came with about three minutes left and the Rockets down five. Harden beat his defender off the dribble and found the paint closed off, so he made the smart play and sent a pass toward Marcus Thornton alone in the corner. Thornton missed a 3-pointer, and on the ensuing possession, Andrew Bogut scored on a dunk, pushing the Warriors to a 109-102 lead.

While agreeing he is frustrated with his teammates' inability to finish plays, Harden continues to be positive.

“You got to encourage them to stick with it,” Harden said. “Whether it’s an open shot or a layup. Just continue to give them motivation, give them courage and they’re do better next time.”

The game was sealed on Green’s block of a 24-foot jumper by Harden with 1:49 left.

On the next play, Thompson found himself in the lane and hit one of those rare midrange jumpers you don’t see too often in the NBA. Thompson’s nine-foot jumper over Patrick Beverley gave the Warriors a 113-102 edge.

Thompson and Harden were not only trading buckets but assists during the fourth quarter. While you can go with either player as your starting 2-guard, Thompson’s win had so much value.

The Warriors were minus four key players, including starters Harrison Barnes (ankle) and Curry (lower leg bruise). In the previous game, the Warriors were beaten badly, 114-91, by Dallas.

Thompson called the loss embarrassing.

“The thing that makes us the most happy is that our guys did it together,” interim coach Luke Walton said. “It wasn’t Klay coming down pulling up jumpers and making his own shots. It was the ball movement, pass, pass, pass and when guys got hot, they were looking for them. But they did it as a team.”

Sure, but Thompson played a major role and maybe proved he is the best 2-guard in the game.

“I don’t care about that,” Thompson said. “I just care about the team. All the individual accolades will come with it. I’m just happy we got the win.”

And while the Warriors are entering the new year at 30-2, the Rockets have fallen to 16-18 and are left wondering how to fix things with their own star player in Harden, who's making a case as the best 2-guard in the league.

He has been fantastic this season and most likely will earn another All-Star berth and first-team All-NBA.

Yet the Rockets have to do more with him on and off the floor.

“We’re just inconsistent. We played a pretty good game up until the end of the third quarter when they went on that run [10-0],” Harden said. “Just give up small buckets like that to a really good team, [is something you] couldn’t really do.”