Rockets blow another opportunity, this time in loss to the Warriors

Warriors notch best 51-game start in NBA history (1:30)

Stephen Curry scores 35 points with nine assists and five rebounds as the Warriors defeat the Rockets 123-110 to improve to 47-4, the best 51-game start in NBA history. (1:30)

OAKLAND, Calif. -- For the majority of the season, the Houston Rockets have talked about blown opportunities. On Tuesday night, they mangled another chance, failing to carry third-quarter momentum into the final 12 minutes and losing to the Golden State Warriors 123-110 at Oracle Arena.

The Rockets were beaten up pretty good in the first half, down by as many as 16 points. In the third quarter, the Rockets responded, holding the Warriors to just 37.5 percent shooting. The lead changed hands seven times, and the Rockets went up by five at one point. With the score tied at 93 after three quarters, this was one of those situations the Rockets needed to take advantage of.

To put it simply, the Rockets were outscored 30-17 in the fourth quarter and lost the game. In the process, the Rockets fell from the Western Conference's seventh seed -- something this group stood their ground on while wearing cement shoes, or so it seemed -- to the eighth seed.

What an incredible bungled journey by this organization, to go from playing in the conference finals last season against Golden State to entering the closing moments of the first half of this season just a half-game ahead of being tied for the conference's final playoff spot.

“I haven’t really been looking at it, because we haven’t been playing good enough to look at the schedule,” said Corey Brewer, who scored nine points in 28 minutes. “We got to get ourselves together and start playing better.”

Given how poorly the Rockets have played on defense and how disjointed that they have looked on offense, the sense of urgency is so thick around this fragile team that its former coach Kevin McHale, who watched Tuesday’s game from a TNT studio in Atlanta, must have been shaking his head in disbelief.

James Harden went scoreless in the first quarter and then produced 37 points in the next three to continue his strong offensive efforts. But it was another dismal defensive effort by Harden, who left Stephen Curry alone for a corner 3 like he was some random point guard instead of the league's reigning MVP. Curry finished with 35 points on 24 shots.

And it wasn’t even Curry who finished off the Rockets.

In that fourth quarter, the Warriors' Harrison Barnes went off. He scored 17 points by his lonesome, including a 27-foot 3-pointer that followed an Andre Iguodala 3, which prompted interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff to call timeout with his team down by six.

“We had several opportunities. First quarter hurt us, losing Steph a little bit, and we kinda recovered from that,” Harden said. “Just that fourth quarter, man, the beginning of that fourth quarter, we gave them two 3s to give them confidence. Their bench, that’s tough, that’s tough against a really good team, especially at home.”

After the timeout, Dwight Howard missed a jump hook and Leandro Barbosa scored on a layup to push the Warriors' lead to eight.

That was about it, as the Rockets could only try to play catch-up and keep the noise from the Oracle Arena crowd from giving them headaches.

“At the end of the shot clock, that first Iguodala 3, instead of going over the top of it, we go under, and he makes you pay,” Bickerstaff said. “Harrison Barnes in transition comes down, open at the top of the floor, 3. Against this team, the reason they’re so good is they make you pay for mistakes. You can’t afford to make mistakes against this team, whether it’s their first unit, whether it’s their bench; they’re deep, and they’re that good. So you can’t have those types of mistakes.”

In this disappointing season for the Rockets, they can’t afford mistakes against most teams. Case in point: On Saturday in Houston, the Rockets lost by 17 to the Trail Blazers

Winners of eight of its last 10, Portland will host the Rockets in a rematch on Wednesday night. With another victory, the Trail Blazers would take the eighth spot in the West going into the All-Star break.

Harden said there are positives to take away from the loss at Golden State, adding that the Rockets just can’t worry about the standings. That’s true. But while the Rockets' confidence level seems good, their production on the court is lacking.

“We just got to come out and play hard, and if we do that, we should win the game,” Howard said of Wednesday's matchup with the Blazers. “The only thing that matters is what we control and that’s how hard we play, and it has to be consistent.”