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Thompson leads Warriors past Rockets

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HOUSTON — Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson offered the requisite modesty following his exceptional two-way performance on Saturday night, one that reinforced his All-Star Game candidacy and confirmed, at least in his mind, why he was rewarded with a contract extension.

Thompson harassed Rockets guard James Harden into a poor shooting night and teamed with guard Steph Curry to spark the offense in the Warriors’ 131-106 victory over the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center.

Thompson scored 27 points and posted a career-high five blocks while effectively shutting down the NBA’s leading scorer. While the Warriors (32-6) opened a 22-point lead entering the fourth quarter, Harden scored only seven points on 2-for-12 shooting. Harden finished with 12 points, 15 off his average, as Thompson made a resounding statement.

“I think that’s why I got paid, because I can impact both sides of the ball,” Thompson said of the four-year, $70 million contact extension he signed during the offseason. “I just want to continue to prove that, that I’m getting better every game and learning something new.”

Curry added 27 points (including 7-for-10 shooting in the second half), 11 assists and seven rebounds while reserve forwards David Lee and Marreese Speights added 18 and 15 points, respectively, off the bench.

Golden State improved to 19-6 against the Western Conference and 3-0 against Houston, with the season series finale set for Wednesday in Oakland.

“You’ve got to take those opportunities and take advantage of them because you know at the end of the season it’s going to be a tough task no matter who we’re facing,” Curry said. “You want to play well, win the season series and have momentum against all the tough opponents.

“Any little advantage you can get or any edge that you can build throughout the course of the regular season is going to be important.”

After Harden departed with his third foul at the 3:24 mark of the second quarter, the Rockets (28-13) responded with a 3-pointer from forward Trevor Ariza and two transition baskets to grab a 59-55 lead.

But the Warriors closed the half with a 9-0 spurt that included a Curry 3-pointer, and scored the opening five points of the third quarter to build their first double-digit lead at 69-59. That was the start of a 38-point quarter for the Warriors, one that included Curry pairing 15 points with three assists as Thompson scored 11 on 4-for-7 shooting.

“We just had nothing for them,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “It was so disappointing. We had a little bit of momentum in the second quarter, but even in the first quarter we couldn’t get any stops.

“The third quarter was ridiculous. We couldn’t get a stop, we turned it over, and we just lost all of our — we had no fire. We had nothing.”

Houston labored in vain to remain within striking distance, following a Thompson 3-pointer with one from reserve forward Josh Smith at the 3:04 mark of the third. Golden State then closed the period with a 12-0 burst, taking a 102-80 lead into the fourth to snuff the Rockets’ hopes.

With Harden scuffling, Rockets center Dwight Howard provided a stabilizing force and finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. Smith added 14 points off the bench for the Rockets. But Harden is the Rockets’ linchpin, and his struggles helped to define their defeat.

“They are a really good team,” Harden said of the Warriors. “We know that. We just struggled tonight. We just didn’t have the energy we needed to get the job done.”

NOTES: Warriors G/F Andre Iguodala and C Andrew Bogut both participated after sitting out (rest) on Friday night in a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. … Rockets coach Kevin McHale announced that F Terrence Jones is nearing the end of his lengthy rehabilitation (left leg nerve inflammation). Jones has played in just four games this season with per-game averages of 14.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. … After winning 10 consecutive road games earlier this season (Nov. 16-Dec. 14), the Warriors lost four of five road games before drubbing the Rockets. … McHale recorded his 200th career win on Thursday night and is the winningest coach in franchise history by percentage (161-110, .594).

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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