OAKLAND, Calif. -- "They ain't even that good," James Harden said before Saturday's Warriors-Rockets game in Houston. It was followed by a "Swag Champs on 3" huddle chant and a 131-106 blowout loss at the hands of Golden State.
On Wednesday, days after video of Harden's quote was broadcast on a Rockets team account, Houston got shellacked again by the not-that-good Warriors, their fourth straight double-digit loss to Golden State this season. The 126-113 final score doesn't convey how badly the Rockets were beaten. The game was 102-78 going into the fourth quarter before a protracted helping of uninspired Warriors garbage time.
A lot of Houston's problems redounded to Dwight Howard's struggles. He fell apart early in the game under pressure defense from Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green. Howard ended the contest with seven points, five fouls and a layup attempt that slipped and hit the shot clock.
After the game, Howard was asked if the Warriors were the best team in the league. "I think the Hawks are the best team," he said. "Think they got the best record, right?"
Now, that's not technically true. The Warriors have a better winning percentage and lead the Hawks by two in the loss column.
Houston's frustration bubbled over in the third quarter when Trevor Ariza jogged over to Stephen Curry and shoulder-bumped the point guard. Curry, who had already picked up a technical, was restrained by Green. At the nadir of futility, targeting Curry was either a desperation strategy or the result of desperation. Houston got a great offensive game from Harden (through three quarters, he had as many free throws as the Warriors did), and it just didn't matter at all. Golden State was overwhelming.
"What else can you do? Try running, didn't quite work. Try posting, that didn't quite work. Ain't much more you can do at that point," Green said.
Those weren't Green's only thoughts on the night's action. Through smiles and winks he kept reminding reporters that the Warriors just weren't "that good," saying, "We not that good. You saw it, you don't got Twitter? You got Instagram? So I'm sure you saw it, right? We not that good."
Green lamented Houston's plight of losing to a not-that-good team, saying, "Ya, you know, if we not that good, they in trouble. You know, four losses to somebody that ain't that good."
After the game, Curry was less sarcastic but equally pointed: "We showed we are pretty good, especially against them."
In fairness to Harden, people around the league are wondering if the Warriors are indeed "that good." It seems surreal. How can they put up the best point differential through 40 games since the 1996 Chicago Bulls? How can a team that made few changes save for switching coaching staffs make teams look so feeble?
Some statistical perspective: The Warriors would lead the NBA in point differential just based on their first halves alone. Put another way, the Warriors have outscored their opponents in the first half by more than any team has outscored opponents in full games.
So yes, the Warriors are very, very good right now. It remains to be seen if this all translates to postseason success, but Golden State is hitting a standard no one saw coming.
If what they're doing isn't that good, Green has a terrifying thought for the rest of the league.
"[Harden's] right. We're nowhere near where we're going to be end of this year," he said. "We're going to have to continue to get better and stay healthy. And then we'll look back at this point of this season and say, 'Man, we weren't that good.' So, he's right."