By Chad Cooper
Ten seconds left. Kevin Durant had a wide-open look. Clank. Seth Curry had a wide-open look. Clank. Whew… 112-108. Series is tied at 2 games apiece with 3 left to play.
Bad defense late in Game 4 allowed this to be a lot closer than it should have been. Needed to keep the audience glued to TNT the full 48 minutes, right? Didn’t we tell you that both PJ Tucker and Clint Capela HAD to play better if the Rockets wanted to keep from getting embarrassed? Tucker played a hard 42 minutes. He left it all on the court – 17 points and 10 rebounds – and for the most part, did a good job on Durant.
We also said Austin Rivers would be valuable. He has been that and more. Defense matters.
REBOUNDS!!!! The Rockets controlled the boards with 50-43 overall advantage and limited the Warriors to just 8 offensive. That’s consecutive games the Rockets outrebounded the Warriors and 2 consecutive wins. Rebounds are so freaking important in basketball.
Despite finding themselves down 28-25 at the end of 1Q, the game felt different. Another early scare with MVP James Harden. With already bloodshot eyes, Harden took a Dusty Rhodes’ elbow from Durant on a missed layup and went down hard. No harm, no foul…
In the 2Q, the Rockets continued to rain 3s from Polk St. and outscored the Warriors 28-19 to build a 61-54 lead at the half. Houston shot 11-28 from downtown while Golden State struggled at 3-13. Coach Mike D’Antoni also went with a smaller lineup and it worked beautifully. The Good Guys flexed their muscles in the 3rd Qtr. by building a 17-point lead sending the Toyota Center Rocket faithful into a frenzy. Even Usher Raymond, who took time away from passing out STDS to sit courtside, was excited.
You knew this game wasn’t over. Basketball is full of runs, especially in the NBA. The Warriors slowed the tempo and got several calls. Durant began to cook and the lead suddenly dwindled to 6 before stretching it to 93-84 with 12 minutes left. They controlled most of the 4th until the last minute or so to keep glued to the TV.
Harden was a master. Dude had 38 points and 10 boards in 40 minutes. Red eye and all. He kept putting Warrior defenders on ice skates and it was fun to watch. Harden has scored 79 points in the last 2 playoff games. The only other Rocket to score more in 2 playoff games was Hakeem Olajuwon when he netted 84 points in 1995. The small lineup with Tucker kept the Warriors having to defend an extra 3-point shooter on the floor. Expect to see more of that the rest of the series, which is now a best-of-3.
Rockets need to win just 1 game in Oakland. Run this shit back Wednesday night in Game 5. Warriors open as 5.5-point favorite with a 219 total. Who ya got?