In game 4, the Warriors took their foot off the gas pedal, and the Rockets took full advantage. They capitalized on a limping Klay Thompson, smothering him at every move. They asphyxiated Kevin Durant, who looked apathetic for a propitious outcome like he was ready to bolt Oakland for another team.
Steph Curry caught fire in late in the third quarter as the Warriors built a 10 point lead going into the fourth. Unfortunately for Golden State, the volatile quarters continued, as the Rockets blew out the Warriors in the fourth 25 to 12. Golden State will need to cut down on turnovers. They need to get Steph involved, he had just 3 assists and most of those points came in a hectic third quarter.
Golden State needs Draymond and Iggy to shoot the ball with confidence. Draymond has shot 11% in this series and Andre Iguodala has been injured. Iggy will be rusty coming off a knee injury but he still needs to take the ball to the rim and get in a rhythm from the outside. The Rockets are going to give Dray open three’s, and he needs to be able to hit them to benefit Golden State’s floor spacing.
No doubt, this is a defining moment for Kevin Durant’s legacy. He was the reason the Warriors went 3-18 in the fourth, looking careless with his shot attempts and out of it defensively. All entailing, he went an atrocious 9-24 from the field. Will he bounce back? Or will he crumble like he did in OKC’s game 6 against the Warriors? Kevin Durant, it’s time to prove yourself yet again.
The Rockets will have two solid wing defenders, P.J. Tucker and Luc Richard-Mbah Moute in KD’s grill. It will be interesting to see if KD uses his overpowering stature to post them up. He can beat the 36-year-old Mbah-Moute off the dribble and rise up over the 6’5” Tucker. The Slim Reaper can’t settle for contested shots.
Alas, Golden State has three great shooters (and Nick Young), but besides that, they lack in knockdown shooters. Shaun Livingston has 10-foot range, Kevon Looney is Kevon Looney, and Jordan Bell is nothing but a spark plug. The Rockets have actually outpaced the Warriors in three-pointers made and three-pointers attempted, 52-151 to 42-122. Golden State’s splash triplets cannot have an off game from behind the arc, or Houston will again outpace Golden State in three’s and pull away.
The Warriors simply need to be more physical without fouling. Last game, the Rockets got to the line a series-high 27 times and converted 23 of them. Kevon Looney and Steph Curry were in serious foul trouble throughout the game, forcing Kerr to play Quinn Cook and Jordan Bell early. Be on the lookout for bruiser, Zaza Pachulia, or shot-blocking Javale McGee to spell Looney if he gets in foul trouble.
James Harden has locked away playoff Harden, shooting a respectable 46% from the field while averaging nearly 30 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists in the series. He needs to have a big game early or the Rockets will find themselves digging out of a hole early.
Eric Gordon has been the deciding factor for a Rockets win. In game 1, he put up 27 points and in game 4, he produced 14. Eric Gordon is there fourth best player, the pro tempore all-star for a team desperate for another one. ‘The Hobbit’ (my favorite nickname) will have to make a huge impact offensively for the Rockets to go up 3-2.
On the other hand, Steve Kerr will need to make sound decisions for the Warriors to come out of Toyota Center with a win. Golden State has two otherworldly talents in Curry and Durant. To have the last play be a Klay Thompson fadeaway with a hand in his face is simply abhorrent for a talented team led by a top coach.
Sure, it’s understandable that Steve Kerr prefers to have his players coach, that’s what got him to be known as a player’s coach. But there’s a fine line and Kerr crossed that line in game 4. As a coach, you are obliged in making a judgment timeout call with time ticking down, especially down by 3 in the Western Conference finals. That’s just the best way to put it. I expect better game management and more adjustments out of a 7 time NBA champion.
This game is a must-win for either team, but mostly the less talented Rockets, who boast one less all-star than their opponent. Nonetheless, look for Golden State to take control with a statement win, blowing out Houston on their home floor by 20 plus.
In the end, the Warriors will get down to business and play dominant Warrior basketball at the Toyota Center.
And Rockets fans will be in awe of pure superstardom.