The Houston Rockets get an opportunity to turn a winning trip into a remarkable one when they face the Golden State Warriors on Friday night in San Francisco.
The Rockets left home nine days ago with the worst record in the Western Conference but have since won three of four, beating the San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz to sandwich a two-game split with the Sacramento Kings.
A win over the Warriors would send them home 4-1.
For a team on an extended trip, the Rockets enter Friday's trip finale far more rested than the hosts. While Houston has played just once since Sunday, prevailing in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, the Warriors were taken to overtime on Thursday night in a 121-117 home loss to the Indiana Pacers.
The teams met once previously this season, with the Warriors riding 25 points from Jordan Poole and 20 from Stephen Curry to a 120-107 home win on Nov. 7.
The Rockets played that night without Garrison Mathews, who has exploded out of nowhere since late November to help Houston go 13-16 since a 1-16 start.
Mathews has scored 17 and 23 points in Houston's past two wins over the Kings and Jazz, continuing the remarkable play that has earned him the nickname "Garry Bird" by Rockets fans.
The Lipscomb product shot 9-for-15 on 3-point attempts in those two contests, raising his season average to 11.5 points, more than double the 5.5 he had averaged in his first two NBA seasons with the Washington Wizards.
If any Rockets player is fatigued on the 10th day of the trip, it would figure to be Mathews, who was subbed into Wednesday's game at the 6:48 mark of the third quarter and never left the court. He played the final 18:48, contributing 10 fourth-quarter points to the surprising win over the Jazz.
"I was waiting on a time where he looked like he was running out of gas," Rockets coach Stephen Silas said when asked why he hadn't given Mathews a breather. "But he didn't show that time, so I kept him in the game."
The Friday game also brings together rookies Jalen Green of the Rockets and Jonathan Kuminga of the Warriors, teammates last season on the inaugural edition of the G League Ignite.
Green, a Northern California native, had just nine points on 4-for-12 shooting in his first NBA appearance, in San Francisco during the November loss.
Kuminga played only the final 1:29, going scoreless, but has since taken on a greater role with Draymond Green out of action due to a disk issue in his back.
Kuminga had scored in double figures in five straight games before totaling just five points in 15 minutes Thursday. He might have to be counted upon for a bounce-back performance with the expectation that Klay Thompson will sit out the second night of a back-to-back.
"The usual rotation will be Klay will play one night and Otto (Porter Jr.) will play the other because of the shooting," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. Porter was given the night off Thursday. "We like to have enough shooting every night, and each one provides us with a lot of perimeter shooting and spacing."
Thompson went 6-for-17 in a 12-point effort against the Pacers, but he missed all seven of his 3-point attempts. Curry, who scored 39 points, went 6-for-16 from 3-point range, but his teammates made just three of their 26 long-distance attempts.
Despite the loss, the Warriors retained the distinction of having the league's best home record at 19-4.
--Field Level Media