HOUSTON – Superstar guard James Harden called the Houston Rockets' 116-108 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night "important for our booty", which was soaring after the Rockets claimed the season series regular on the defending NBA. champions.
"We have confidence, because we know that if we do what we're supposed to do, we're going to beat them," Rockets center Clint Capela told ESPN. "We have to keep playing, we know they're going to come back if we have the advantage, and we have to keep that mentality in. Sometimes I feel that, in the past, we were all dragging down after the mistakes, but today, we were ready. if we are doing what we are supposed to do in defense, all changes, the weak side, and we continue to play our offense while maintaining that mentality throughout the game, we have the weapons to defeat them.
"We are better than them."
The Houston Rockets secured the season series against the Golden State Warriors But the postseason has not yet begun, and the Warriors continue to lead the Rockets to the court Local
Next month presents the disadvantage of the most severe calendar of the season How much did the calendar affect the teams in December and who should it be on alert in January?
Houston won two of three meetings with Golden State this season. The Rockets recovered from a 17-point deficit for a away win at the season opener despite the fact that Chris Paul played with a knee injury that knocked him out for the next month. Golden State won in Houston on January 4 in a game in which Warriors star Kevin Durant and MVP favorite Harden retired due to injuries. The Rockets resisted a Warriors rally from a deficit of 17 points, with the leadership changing six times in the fourth quarter, to claim a tiebreaker that Houston hopes to make relevant.
"Mentally, we now have the opportunity to go after the No. 1 seed," said the Rockets' sixth man, Eric Gordon. "Because if it's a draw at the end of the year, we have that advantage, that's why we all thought it was very important to win, now that we're healthy, I think we're going to go back to a great winning streak and do what we have to do again. do, as we did at the beginning of the year. "
The Rockets (32-12) are 3.5 games behind the Warriors (37-10) for first place in the Western Conference standings and the best overall league record.
"That's what we're encouraging," said Harden, who scored 22 points and eight badists in his second game after a hamstring strain. "It's not going to be easy, every game, we're going to have to take it for ourselves and not relax, it's not about who we're playing, it's about us and that each game improves."  The Golden State Warriors saw Saturday's game very differently, with several players dismissing their importance and saying that the Rockets are not a concern.
"No," Kevin Durant replied when asked if it mattered. "The season starts again when you're in the playoffs, so it does not matter, you'll have to go through these teams to get where you want to go, you have to play at home and on the road, so it does not really matter. a good basketball when it comes to that point. "
"Is the game forty what? Seven, eight?" Draymond Green asked during the media scrum. "Who do we play on Tuesday? We have to prepare for [New York] .The home judge will take over later."
Gordon said the Rockets want to see the Warriors again in the playoffs, essentially a recognition that a team must go through Golden State to get out of the West. And Gordon believes the Rockets would have a legitimate chance to end the Warriors' reign.
"We really have that opportunity," Gordon said. "Offensively, we are as good as they are, there is no doubt Defensively, they are a championship team They are consistent, win or lose We still have peaks and valleys We just can not have That's why we have to play well next game, because we just have to keep the same effort. "
The Warriors had dominated the Rockets in the previous three seasons, winning 10 of 11 regular-season games between teams and twice discarding the Rockets in a five-game playoff series. Houston general manager Daryl Morey has not hidden his obsession with regaining ground at Golden State, whose only loss in the postseason series over the past three seasons was against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. Morey he has proof that he had the Warriors in mind during a low-season renewal that included a highly successful exchange for Paul and the signing of rugged players like Luc Mbah a Moute and PJ Tucker, who played prominent roles in Saturday's victory the night.
Morey posted a tweet after Saturday's game, playing his comment last month that his team is "obsessed" with defeating the Warriors.
The Rockets are 17-0 when Harden, Paul and Capela play together, and Houston will finally have their full rotation available for Monday's game against the Miami Heat, with wingers Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green coming back from two-game suspensions. games
"We are definitely the best in the league with everyone healthy," Capela told ESPN after scoring 18 and registering four steals for life. "We definitely have the chance to recover that 1-seed, the thing is, of course, we're excited because it's the Warriors, but Monday is an important game too, if we lose and the [Warriors] wins his game, what was the The next game, each time, will be the key to get the first No. 1 seed. "
Added to Harden, who connected a 3-point stepback dagger with 1: 10 left:" We're sure. Sure, especially with everyone healthy, we get Trevor and Gerald back, and then we have a strong rotation in which we are very versatile, Obviously, [the Warriors are] a championship caliber team for the last four years or whatever. what we are trying to build. "
Paul, who pushed for a trade to Houston in the hope of finally getting through the second round of the playoffs in his 13th NBA season, emphasized the importance of the Rockets taking a short-term view after a victory so emotional Discarded a question about a possible playoff series against the Warriors.
"That's a long time from now," Paul said after his performance of 33 points, 11 rebounds, 7 badists and 3 steals. "I'm trying to worry about Miami on Monday."
D & # 39; Antoni also cautioned that the Rockets were ahead of themselves, but also said that Houston had shown that this "is not the same old team".
"You see us play and we have a lot of things out there, but they are still the champions," said D & # 39; Antoni. "I was saying [the Rockets] during a timeout," You have to knock them out, it's like a heavyweight fight, you do not win TKO, you must knock them out tonight, we did it, but it's tonight. [Andre] Iguodala, and they will be a different team when it comes to the postseason, but we have to be different, at least we know that it's inside our dressing room, a lot of these things we can do.
"We have shown that we have something there. Now it's up to us to do something. "
Chris Haynes of ESPN contributed to this report.