However, head coach Mike D'Antoni downplayed the impressive performance and didn't want to make much of their Harden-less win over their tormentor's last season, per Jonathan Feigen of Houston Chronicle:
D'Antoni: "I’m happy that we can play them, but we think we can play with anybody, whether it’s them or anybody else. We can win against any of them and we’ve shown we can lose against any of them. We’re good. Don’t make too much of it. It’s a good win. We played well.”
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) February 24, 2019
The 2017-18 Houston Rockets were an offensive juggernaut and consistent night in and night out. They finished with a 67-15 record as they sat atop the entire league standings.
However, these 2018-19 Rockets struggled out of the gates early in the season, and they currently find themselves at fifth in the Western Conference with a 34-25 record. Consistency has been the story for Houston this season, as D'Antoni alluded to in his postgame comments. At times, they look like they're the best team in the league, like they did against Golden State. And on some occasions, they lay goose eggs or choke away leads late in games.
The lack of consistency was evident in Houston's previous outing against the Los Angeles Lakers. Even with the roster at full strength, the Rockets blew a 19-point lead and lost to the struggling Lakers, 111-106. Saturday night, without Harden, the Rockets took down the defending champions on the road for the second consecutive time.
Still, Houston's performance must have felt good for D'Antoni. All-Star guard Chris Paul arguably played his best game of the season as he handed out a season-high 17 assists to go with his 23 points. Eric Gordon and Kenneth Faried also contributed 25 and 20 points, respectively.
Houston has had Golden State's number this season, taking all three games in the season series thus far. While this may not mean anything to the defending champs, these three statement victories have to give the Rockets some much-needed confidence that they can challenge and give the Warriors a run for their money should they meet again in in the postseason.