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NBA Christmas Day

NBA Christmas Day 2019: Golden State Warriors stun Houston Rockets, earn third straight win

Leading into today's busy schedule, not many had their sights set on the game between the Houston Rockets and the injury-riddled Golden State Warriors.

While Houston entered with All-Stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook in tow, Golden State was without the All-Star backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, though it did have former All-Stars in Draymond Green and D'Angelo Russell suiting up.

MORE: Vote for your 2020 NBA All-Stars Here

All things considered, it's safe to say that the Warriors performance did more than exceed expectations as they earned a 116-104 win over the Rockets.

Led by 22 points from Damion Lee, five different Warriors finished in double figures including Green, who came alive in the second half to finish with 20 points. For Houston, Westbrook struggled from the field but finished with a game-high 30 points while Harden scored just 24 points but also dished out 11 assists.

With all of that in mind, here are some takeaways from Golden State's stunning Christmas Day win in The Bay.

The biggest win of the season

The Warriors, who are now winners of three straight, advanced to 8-24 on the year with the win. In defeating the Rockets, the Warriors have earned their first win over a team with a winning record this season.

It's been a rough year for Golden State, as it has dealt with a myriad of injuries and entered the game with the worst record in the Western Conference despite the recent stretch.

With a staunch opponent in town on a big stage, many wrote Golden State off leading into the game, largely as a product of its inability to counter the star power present in Houston's backcourt… more on them later.

This win - by far - is the biggest win of the Warriors 2019-20 season and it took a complete team effort.

In addition to a team-high 22 points, Damion Lee pulled down 15 rebounds. Despite a rough 3-point shooting night, D'Angelo Russell managed to finish with 20 points while Glenn Robinson III (18 points) and Willie Cauley-Stein.

It wasn't just on offence, either, as the Warriors defensive efforts had a hand in…

A relatively quiet game from Harden

When you enter the game averaging a league-leading 38.5 points per game, the scoring expectations placed upon you are going to be high.

Unreasonable? Perhaps, but Harden fell short of a few of his season averages.

The league's back-to-back scoring champ scored just 24 points on an efficient 9-for-18 shooting night but it was his inability to get to the free throw line that was the most eye-popping stat from the game.

Harden, who entered the game attempting 12.8 free throws per game, did not step to the charity stripe until the 7:59 mark in the fourth quarter as he stepped up and failed to convert on a four-point play.

It would be Harden's only free throw of the night.

Credit to the Warriors' defence for remaining disciplined on fakes by not reaching or lunging to keep Harden well below his season average from the line. That had a hand in keeping his scoring numbers low which, in turn, led to the Warriors big win.

Westbrook's struggles

At first glance, Russell Westbrook's stat line of 30 points, 12 rebounds and five assists would seem to be good enough for a win.

Unfortunately for Houston, the efficiency wasn't there.

Westbrook couldn't really get going offensively as he finished the game shooting 11-for-32 (34.4%) from the field and 0-for-8 from 3-point range. He did knock down all eight of his free throw attempts but his missed perimeter shots had a negative effect on the Rockets' offence.

It is the 40th time in Westbrook's career that he's attempted 30 or more shots in a regular-season game. His team's record in such games? 14-26.

To be fair, the Rockets recently won over the Clippers when Westbrook scored a season-high 40 points on 13-for-31 but the negative impact from this most recent shooting performance stems largely from the missed 3s.

Damion Lee swings the momentum… Draymond comes alive late

He fell one point shy of a career-high, but Damion Lee was a game-changer, especially in the second quarter.

Golden State trailed by as many as 13 points in the frame but Lee was persistent, scoring 17 of his 22 points in the second, thanks to his shooting a perfect 10-for-10 from free throw line in the period.

The Warriors entered the half down by just four points.

In the end, Draymond Green was the one that stepped up to lead the Warriors over the hump. After a four-point first half, Draymond scored 16 points in the second half including two huge triples late.

Following the game, the three-time All-Star said that the team's recent success is a product of its gradual improvement and this win is just another example that the team is getting better as it goes on.

What's Next

The Warriors will look to make it four straight as they host the Phoenix Suns Friday while the Rockets head home to host the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.

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