OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Steve Kerr knew he had a lot of expectations on him after taking over a Golden State Warriors team that Mark Jackson led to a 51-win season and back-to-back playoff appearances.
In less than two months, Kerr has built on his predecessor’s success and eclipsed every rookie coach that came before him.
Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry shook off slow starts to finish with a flurry, and the Warriors extended their franchise-best winning streak to 14 games by beating the Houston Rockets 105-93 on Wednesday night.
Golden State improved its NBA-leading record to 19-2 and helped Kerr carve out a slice of history. Kerr became the first rookie coach to win 19 of his first 21 games.
“It means I’m the luckiest coach in NBA history,” Kerr said. “Because I inherited a team that was already really good.”
And apparently made them even better.
Thompson scored 21 points and Curry added 20 points, seven assists and seven rebounds to power an 11-0 run in the final minutes and turn a tight game into another comfortable win. About the only thing Kerr said he could complain about was the postgame meal, and he even laughed that off.
“You just want to pile up wins in the West,” Kerr said. “Keep putting some numbers in the win column because there’s 61 games left.”
James Harden played through back pain to finish with 34 points and eight rebounds for the Rockets, who had won four straight and seven of eight despite center Dwight Howard being sidelined.
Howard (strained right knee) and Warriors big man Andrew Bogut (right knee tendinitis) both sat out with injuries, and the smaller lineups worked in Golden State’s favor in the end.
The Warriors outscored Houston 32-17 in the fourth quarter.
“They’re a good team and they broke us down a little bit,” Harden said. “We got too spread out on defense.”
The teams traded baskets for most of the game, and anytime one side began to pull away, the other followed with another spectacular play — until Golden State’s final push.
Harden hit a tying 3-pointer with 4:45 remaining, and the Warriors answered in dramatic fashion: Draymond Green roared down the lane for a soaring dunk, Harrison Barnes started a three-point play with a driving layup over Harden and Thompson blocked Patrick Beverly from behind and finished a finger-roll layup on the other end.
But the Warriors still weren’t done.
After the Rockets called timeout, Green came up with a steal and passed ahead to Curry for a layup. The Warriors got another stop and Thompson hit two free throws to give Golden State a 100-89 lead.
“You lose probably one of the top centers in the league (without Bogut), so we tried to make up for that by being quick and scrappy,” said Barnes, who finished with 20 points and seven rebounds.
Trevor Ariza and Donatas Motiejunas each scored 18 for the Rockets. Golden State outshot Houston 49.4 to 41.6 percent, and each team had 15 turnovers.
“They attacked us off the dribble and we didn’t handle that very well,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “They got some open stuff, and when they went small, it bothered us.”
Rockets: Howard has missed 10 straight games. He hopes to return Saturday at home against Denver. … Francisco Garcia (strained right calf/Achilles), Isaiah Canaan (sprained left ankle), Terrence Jones (nerve inflammation in left leg) and Kostas Papanikolaou (strained right knee) also sat out.
Warriors: Al Cervi had the previous best start for a coach, winning 18 of his first 20 games with the Syracuse Nationals in the 1949-50 season. … Kerr said he doesn’t expect Bogut to miss additional time with tendinitis. … David Lee, who has played in just one game because of a strained left hamstring, is scheduled to practice Thursday and will travel with the team on its upcoming trip.
Dennis Rodman made headlines the past couple days when he said Kerr, his former teammate with the Chicago Bulls, is basically just sitting on the bench while his players and assistants do most of the work. Asked about Rodman’s comments, Kerr joked: “Well, that’s actually pretty accurate.”
Rockets: At Sacramento on Thursday.
Warriors: At Dallas on Saturday.