Harden questionable with back spasms, Howard doubtful as Rockets prepare to meet Golden State

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Houston Rockets' James Harden (13) works to maintain control of the ball under pressure from Phoenix Suns' P.J. Tucker in the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)


Injured Houston Rockets Isaiah Canaan, right, and Dwight Howard cheer on their teammates in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, in Houston. The Rockets won 100-95. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)


HOUSTON — Add James Harden to the long list of Houston Rockets dealing with injuries.

Harden is struggling with back spasms and is listed as questionable for Houston's game at NBA-leading Golden State on Wednesday night.

Harden's back problem began in Saturday night's game.

"Still a little tight," he said Tuesday. "Getting better every single day though."

All-Star center Dwight Howard is improving and practiced with the team on Tuesday, but is doubtful to play against the Warriors. He has missed the last nine games with a strained right knee.

"Dwight went through the majority of what we did which was the first time he's done that since he's been out," coach Kevin McHale said. "So I guess (Wednesday) we'll see how he feels."

McHale said that Howard has been running and doing work away from the team, but that his return to practice was an encouraging step. Howard is averaging 18.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. Rookie Tarik Black has filled in for him nicely and has helped the Rockets go 7-2 in his absence, including winning their last four. He's averaged more than six points and seven rebounds a game since Howard has been out.

"We're interchanging pieces right now which is kind of weird, but we're getting it done," Black said.

The Rockets have dealt with numerous injuries this season, and starting forward Terrence Jones (left leg nerve inflammation), backup point guard Isaiah Canaan (left ankle sprain) and forward Kostas Papanikolaou (right knee strain) are all out indefinitely. Francisco Garcia is questionable for Wednesday's game with a right calf strain.

The Warriors have won 13 in a row and beat the Rockets 98-87 in the first meeting this season. Houston's recent surge has the team leading the Southwest Division entering Tuesday's games.

Harden talked about what the Rockets need to do on Wednesday night.

"We've just going to have to go in there and play our game and do what we've been doing," Harden said. "We had an opportunity to beat them here but just couldn't get our offense going in the fourth quarter. Now I think our offense is a little bit better so it's going to be a great opportunity for us."

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