HOUSTON -- Three nights after leading a stirring fourth-quarter comeback, Stephen Curry could do nothing but tightly grip the towel draped over his shoulders as the clock ticked down. Unlike the lowly Toronto Raptors, the rebuilt Houston Rockets weren't about to let the Warriors back into a game they gave away early.
The Warriors shot poorly and did little to protect the paint Friday, falling 105-83 to the Rockets on the first night of a three-game road trip. After falling behind by 27 at one point Tuesday night, the Warriors let the Rockets take a 19-point first-quarter lead Friday and trailed 61-37 at the half. They never got the deficit back under 15 points.
"We got outworked; (the Rockets) played with more force, and it set the tone the rest of the way," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "We've certainly got to be better. The Toronto Raptors, they're a team that we're good enough to battle back and win. Against these teams in the Western Conference, these good teams, you dig yourself a hole and it's awfully tough."
"I think we learned the lesson before," Jackson said flatly. "You've got to do something about it, and we did not."
The Warriors shot a season-low 36 percent and misfired on 14 of 16 3-point attempts. Jackson was disheartened by the 22 turnovers, and Curry pointed out that the poor shooting carried over on the defensive end.
"You have a tendency to dwell on that as opposed to getting stops and letting that lead to easy offense," said Curry, who had 22 points through three but sat the entire fourth quarter. "We gave them extra possessions, especially early in the game to get their confidence going."
The Rockets paraded through the paint in the first half, with Terrence Jones repeatedly getting the better of David Lee, and Dwight Howard taking advantage of a Warriors front line that was ravaged by foul trouble. Andrew Bogut picked up two fouls in the first 8:28 and had five before the third quarter was even half over. Backup Jermaine O'Neal had two fouls after just 47 seconds of guarding Howard.
The first-year Rocket is notoriously bad from the charity stripe, but Howard had more free throws (five) in the first quarter than the Warriors had field goals (four). Howard already had a double-double early in the second quarter and shook off Jackson's third-quarter Hack-A-Howard strategy, finishing with 22 points and 18 rebounds.
The Warriors gave up 54 points in the paint and 25 more at the free throw line. The somber locker room housed plenty of players staring at ugly individual stat lines. Klay Thompson had five points on 2-of-10 shooting, and Harrison Barnes was just 5 for 16 from the field. Bogut had four points and five rebounds opposite of Howard, and Lee managed just seven shots and 11 points on a quiet night. The normally sharpshooting Warriors failed to make at least five 3-pointers for the first time this season, and also set a new low in assists (10).
"We've just been bad," Jackson said. "Across the board."
For the second straight game, the problems were acute early, but Curry said "there's no magic formula" for fixing the first-half struggles. "We know what it is," he said. "Play harder, play better, especially on the road."
That last word provides one saving grace for the Warriors, who have no time to dwell on the ugly loss. To a man, the Warriors said they're glad they'll be back on a court Saturday night in Memphis. Jackson was hopeful his group would write a different story after the next tipoff.
"We're well aware of what took place in that first half," he said. "We dug ourselves another hole. We've got to be better."
"We want to stay true to the process," Jackson said. "It's important to make sure that he's 100 percent, because what we don't want is a setback."
The tandem of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 27 points in Friday's loss, a season low when both are in the lineup. Here's a look at their stats:
22 Points 5
5-14 Field goals 2-10
1-5 3-pointers 0-4
Warriors (11-9) at Memphis (9-9),
5 p.m. CSNBA