James Harden outdueled Stephen Curry the first two times these perimeter stars met this season.
Harden looks to help the visiting Houston Rockets post a ninth straight victory Thursday night and complete a three-game season sweep of Curry’s Golden State Warriors.
Harden and Curry started together in the backcourt in Sunday’s All-Star game, and their ability to make 3-pointers figures to be critical in this matchup.
Houston (37-17) leads the NBA with 26.0 3-point attempts per game, with Harden averaging a team-best 6.2. Curry leads the league with an average of 8.2 attempts.
Harden averaged 30.0 points on 50.0 percent shooting in two December victories over Golden State (32-22). Curry averaged 21.0 points but shot only 38.5 percent and had 14 turnovers and 10 fouls.
The Warriors may have a better chance of slowing down Harden this time since Andre Iguodala is available. The defensive-minded Iguodala missed the first two meetings with a strained left hamstring.
The Rockets are enjoying their longest win streak since a franchise-record 22-game run during 2007-08. Harden scored 29 and Dwight Howard added 20 and 13 rebounds as Houston finished with its highest point total in Wednesday’s 134-108 rout of the Los Angeles Lakers.
”We’re always going to have fun when we’re playing basketball. We love what we’re doing,” Howard said. ”We’re playing great, and we just want to have as much fun as possible.”
Howard is averaging 20.0 points and 14.5 rebounds while shooting 71.4 percent in the season series. He could find even less resistance Thursday since Warriors center Andrew Bogut will likely miss a sixth straight game with a left shoulder injury.
Houston began its sixth set of back-to-back road games with its first win in an opener. The Rockets are 5-0 in the second games.
The Warriors also won on the road Wednesday, defeating Sacramento 101-92 as David Lee registered his third straight double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Howard is third in the league with 36 double-doubles while Lee is eighth with 28.
Klay Thompson scored 18 on Wednesday for Golden State and Curry had 13 with eight assists. Thompson is averaging 10.0 points on 29.6 percent shooting against Houston this season compared to his overall marks of 18.3 and 43.2.
Golden State will receive a boost if Steve Blake arrives to make his club debut. The Warriors acquired Blake from the Lakers on Wednesday for seldom-used reserve guards Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks.
The trade was announced before the contest with the Kings, and the Warriors were able to maintain their focus.
”It became a setup game,” coach Mark Jackson said. ”We could have held our heads down and got emotional before the game. But we understood that there’s a job to do.”
Blake will compete with Jordan Crawford to be Curry’s backup.
”I know both guys,” Jackson said. ”And with Steve, I’ve watched him throughout the course of his career, and he’s a guy that’s not afraid of the moment. It gives us great depth and it gives us experience.”