The Golden State Warriors were not just denied a sweep in Monday night’s 128-115 loss to the Houston Rockets in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors were delivered a terrifying scare. It was an awful moment that not only jeopardized Golden State’s title hopes, but made you genuinely concerned for Steph Curry’s health and career. With just under six minutes remaining in the 2nd quarter, Curry accidentally cartwheeled onto the hardwood neck-first while attempting to block a Trevor Ariza lay-up. Curry would lay motionless on the court for several minutes while all manner of deeply scary thoughts went through the heads of Dub Nation.


The good news is that Curry would return to the game, even appearing to shake it off and play at full health. The bad news is that the Warriors got destroyed in a game that could have been their coronation as 2015 Western Conference champions, but instead gave the Rockets new life to send this series back to Oakland for a Game 5.

James Harden had a banner evening, eating the Warriors’ lunch and scoring a career playoff-high 45 points. In other stomach-churning statistics involving the number 45, the Warriors allowed the Rockets to score 45 points in just the first quarter alone. There was one measly ‘glimmer of hope’ moment when the Warriors came within 6 points with 8:24 left in the game, but Houston reeled off 10 consecutive points to bring that to a complete halt. This was a laugher of a blowout game on which the Warriors were on the wrong end.

It’s tempting to say this is just a temporary reprieve for the embattled Rockets. After all, no team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 playoff series deficit, and that’s what the Rockets would have to do. Houston needs to beat Golden State four times in a row, and last night gave them the first of these four required victories. Your Warriors have not lost four games in a row all season, let alone three games in a row.

But this series is now the exact same 3-1 state of affairs from which Houston came back against the Los Angeles Clippers. Yes, four straight wins against the statistically-speaking best team in the NBA is a much taller order than three straight against the inconsistent Clippers. But the Rockets, while still facing elimination, have their hope restored and a sound logical argument to tell themselves that they can do this.

Warriors fans would like to think the Rockets cannot do this, but Golden State might be in trouble. We’ll find out whether they are in trouble — or whether they are indeed your 2015 Western Conference champions — when the Warriors and Rockets face off for Game 5 tomorrow night at Roaracle Arena (6 p.m., ESPN).

Image: Deadspin