2018 West Finals: Rockets refuse to get knocked out to tie the series

1. Houston Rockets 95 – 2. Golden State Warriors 92 (Series tied 2-2)

In Game 3, the Houston Rockets were knocked out. No. Wait. They were knocked out, then their teeth were kicked in and then the Golden State Warriors dragged them to the curb to stomp on them. You get the picture.

To start Game 4, it seemed the Warriors still had that knockout from the previous game. Every player from the vaunted Hamptons Five, now the starting five of the Warriors, buried a bucket in a 12-0 to start the game. Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson buried outside jumpers while Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala scored inside.

By any standard that was a haymaker that should have put the Rockets into a 3-1 hole. Instead, Houston punched back. James Harden caught fire before halftime to help the Rockets climb out of an early deficit. The highlight of Harden’s run came midway through the second period when he got into the lane and slammed a vicious tomahawk on Draymond Green.

That dunk fired up the Rockets. They limited to Warriors to just 18 points in the second half while they erupted for 34 points of their own. Harden scored 24 of his 30 points in the first half to tow Houston into the lead, 53-46.

The Warriors had another haymaker up their sleeves. Just like he did in Game 3, Steph Curry erupted in the third quarter. Curry was unconscious after the halftime break. He scored 17 points in the third period, including a couple of long range bombs right in front of his defenders. That explosion once again gave Golden State a double-digit lead. Curry finished with 28 points, six treys and one shimmy.

Once again, the Rockets got up and fought back. This time, they did it with their defense.

Trevor Ariza, PJ Tucker and Chris Paul all teamed up in the final period to shut down the Warriors’ main weapons. Curry, Durant and Thompson couldn’t get it going in the final period. Golden State was limited to just 12 points on 16% shooting in the fourth quarter. The Rockets on the other hand hit clutch baskets to take over the game in the final minutes. Paul supported Harden with 27 points, five treys and four assists.

The Warriors still had a chance to win the game in the final seconds. The Rockets weren’t able to ice the game when Harden missed a step back three-pointer. Durant got the ball after the miss and got into scoring position. But somehow he froze and passed the ball to Thompson who was forced into a bad shot.

Paul was fouled and made one of two free throws, leaving the door open for the Warriors with 0.5 seconds left. Golden State ran a play to get Curry open in the left corner but his shot hit iron, giving Houston the all-important win.

The Rockets are back in this series. A game ago, they were left for dead. But they showed through this gritty win that they are indeed the team that led the league this season.

Photo from Getty Images

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