OAKLAND -- It might have been quite a celebratory Marreese Speights coming-out party at Oracle Arena on Friday night, except for one significant detail: The Houston Rockets came out with the victory.
Speights, the free-agent power forward the Warriors have been waiting all season to get going, finally fired it up in leading Golden State back from another double-digit second-half deficit.
Speights scored 16 points, 12 in the fourth quarter, and twice gave the Warriors the lead down the stretch with big baskets. But the Rockets turned up their defense in the final minutes, hit clutch shots and escaped with a 116-112 triumph.
The Rockets continued their superiority over the Warriors -- 18 wins in their past 22 meetings, including both games this season -- despite being out-rebounded 56-32 and outscored in the key 66-40. Add Speights' contributions and you would have thought it would be enough.
But the Warriors also turned over the ball 18 times, and the Rockets scored 22 points off those miscues. Moreover, Houston guards Patrick Beverley and James Harden snuffed the Splash Brothers from beyond the arc. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson went a combined 2 for 12 from 3-point range.
"It was a tough loss for us, but ultimately it was because we turned the ball over too much," coach Mark Jackson said. "Can't do that."
At least they finally got major contributions from the bench, notably Speights, who seemed to come alive when he made a last-second tip-in to end the third quarter. Then in the fourth quarter, he played like a man possessed.
His short jumper on a pass from Curry with 8:08 remaining gave the Warriors their first lead since the opening quarter, 85-84, and he made an 18-footer with 6:31 left for a 91-90 advantage. But that was the last lead the Warriors would have.
"I was trying to impact the game in different kind of ways," said Speights, who also had nine rebounds. "I knew my scoring was going to come, but I wish we would have gotten the 'W.' I just want to win, so the stats don't mean much."
Speights conceded he finally has something on which to build after averaging just 3.8 points and 3.2 rebounds over the first 23 games.
"Games like this always give you momentum," he said. "I've been working hard in practice, and I'm glad the coach didn't give up on me. This is what everyone was supposed to see from me from Day 1, but a lot of things didn't go right, and I put that all on myself."
It was a frustrating defeat because the Warriors seemed poised for another home-court comeback victory. After trailing by as many as 13 at one point and by nine heading into the fourth quarter, the Warriors twice took the lead over the final 12 minutes. They tied the score 98-98 with 3:18 left on Harrison Barnes' offensive rebound stuff.
But Chandler Parsons scored quickly for Houston, and Dwight Howard, who missed much of the fourth quarter because of foul trouble, delivered a three-point play with 2:15 left on a put-back.
That gave the Rockets a 103-98 lead the Warriors couldn't overcome. Harden led Houston with 26 points, but the Rockets won with key contributions throughout their lineup. Parsons scored 23, and Howard had 18 points and 11 rebounds.
The Warriors were led by David Lee with 23 points, while Curry and Barnes had 20 each.
O'Neal has appeared in 17 games, averaging 6.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in 18.6 minutes.