At times, the Warriors looked unbeatable in game 4, with Curry going full beast mode for a stretch. But Durant looked like a shell of himself which had me rewinding my TV to see if he even hit rim a shot attempt in the fourth quarter.
The Houston Rockets did everything they could to stay in the game. Harden and Paul were unselfish and the role players were involved early (and late).
Late game defensive stops led to a victory at the Oracle Arena, exactly what D’antoni drew up.
So What Happened?
Harden and Paul got their teammates involved early. Although, their unselfishness was a little over-exaggerated to start the game. On one stretch, Harden looked back to see if Steph Curry, his primary defender, was near him, only to brick a floater. Harden clearly had pregame jitters but he settled into his newfound playoff role comfortably as the first half progressed.
As Kenny Smith pointed out, when Harden and Paul attacked the defense early in the shot clock, they caught Golden State’s defense off guard. Houston excels as a fast-paced juggernaut that keeps the defense on their heels at all times.
Chris Paul seemed ever frustrated by the pesky defense of Steph Curry, shoving him to the ground with a thunderous force early in the second quarter. It began to look like the Warriors were getting into the Rockets head and the game would be another playoff blowout. But that didn’t happen.
“ISO, ISO, ISO!” Steve Kerr reiterated to his team during a timeout huddle. He was right, but the Rockets utilized a drive-and-kick for an extra pass scheme early and often. The Rockets made a myriad of passes that would impress even the Spurs. While the Warriors took a page out of Houston’s playbook and ended with a playoff-low 14 assists.
Harden rose up for a dunk on Draymond Green that seemed like sweet revenge. “A facial!” Marv Albert denounced. As Harden stared nastily at Dray, The TNT cameracrew pinpointed a Rockets fan in the crowd, who stood out like Waldo, jumping up and down like a kid in a candy shop. This is the aggression I was calling for after last game, which NBA fans have seen by regular season Harden but rarely by playoff Harden.
Ayesha Curry’s was reportedly on the edge of sending a 2016 championship tweet when Steph Curry was called for his third foul, who’s head swiveled left and right like a bobble head at the referee, clearly frustrated at the call. It seemed like the Rockets knew they were going to get cheap fouls, baiting Kevon Looney and Steph Curry into debatable foul calls.
Klay Thompson’s knee injury was scary, he gimped around like roadkill trying to escape speeding cars late in the second quarter. He put away any doubt when he hit consecutive corner threes. The other half of the splash brothers was diagnosed with a left knee strain at halftime, so Warriors fans sat down and breathed a sigh of relief.
For a second, it looked like Harden’s ‘shaqtin’ a fool’ like defense even became competent. He had two defensive play two plays in a row to lead the Rockets to a 13-2 run on the way to a 36-18 second quarter which gave Houston a 10 point lead. Needless to say, Harden played lockdown defense in addition to his playoff-high 24 first half points.
Houston’s help-side defense improved tremendously, Durant drove with 4 Rockets imminently enclosing on him, while Capela contested his shot at the rim repeatedly. Durant needs to end these hero-ball antics he so heavily employed in game 4 for the Warriors to go up 3-2.
After, Steve Kerr was disppointed in his underachieving players. He mentioned double-digit first half turnovers coupled with 14 charity stripe shots as the reason for Golden State’s first hallf downfalls. “It’s supposed to be tough, but we’ve made it tough.” Golden State’s arch nemesis is themselves. Cue the eery music.
Draymond and Paul finally became tangled up in that inevitable scuffle, Paul is notably distasteful of the “small fry” treatment. Paul instigated, “say it to me!” stealing a page out of Rondo’s book by baiting the controversial forward. Dray knew to stay calm as has 3 technical fouls thus far in the playoffs, only 4 away from a one-game suspension.
Curry dropped 3 three’s and an easy layup in three minutes for a vintage Steph Curry moment. I’m most surprised he didn’t shimmy, I actually think he came up with a hybrid move of the robot and shimmy. Truly grounbreaking stuff.
The Rockets were put down by the Warriors’ run and started to escape that team first play style they displayed in the first half. Gerald Green thought he was Steph Curry, taking three early in the shot clock that had D’antoni scratching his head. I’m really starting to understand these 10 day contracts Gerald Green signs every offseason.
Steve Kerr discerned the Warriors third-quarter run, “Steph Curry making a lot of incredible shots.” Nothing really changed expect for that and the coach is the first admit that. This became their undoing, as the Rockets were able to stay close enough to them so they could stage a mini-comeback. The Warriors were hunting down Curry as he caught fire. Jordan Bell and Dray were wide open on numerous plays yet looked for number 30 who was running frantically around the 3-point line.
D’antoni advised his team to stay calm, they’re hot…that’s cool let’s get back to rocket ball.” The message was positive and kept the players grounded. It’s what great coaches do, no matter what happens stay true to yourself and your success mentality, which is ultimately what brought the never-say-never Rockets back to life.
The Warriors need their leader, Iggy, back for game 5 or they might be underdogs headed into Game 5 at the Toyota Center.
In the end, Klay Thompson took a contested fadeaway that left fans wondering how bad his injury really is and Steph Curry clanked a three as time ticked away.
Just what D’antoni drew up.