The Golden State Warriors dropped their second consecutive game in Houston Monday night, losing a close one 112-108. The Rockets were able to "hold serve" at home and tie the Western Conference Semifinal series at two games apiece.
After rallying back to force overtime, in Saturday night's Game 3, the Rockets were able to pull out the victory in the extra period 126-121. The Dubs, carried by another herculean Kevin Durant effort, quickly closed the gap between themselves and Houston early in the fourth, after trailing throughout most of the second and the entire third quarter. KD powered the Warrior offensive attack, with: 46 points, three rebounds, and six assists, all on an efficient 14/31 shooting, 6/10 three-pointers, and a perfect 12/12 from the free-throw line.
A lackluster performance by the Splash Brothers, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, made the contest a particularly arduous uphill battle. Steph managed just 17 points on 7/23 field goals, going just 2/9 from three and an egregious 1/3 from the charity stripe (Curry is an elite career free-throw shooter at 90.5%). His partner in crime, Thompson, rang-in at a subpar 16 points on 6/16 shooting and 2/6 from beyond the arc. The Rockets, led by reigning league MVP James Harden, who dropped 41 on the Dubs, outscored Golden State 14-9 in the overtime period, sending the Houston-faithful home happy in victory.
Fast-forward to Monday night. The Warriors had a second opportunity to steal a game on the road and push the series to an all-but-finished 3-1. Houston, however, had their sights set on tying the series and heading back to the Bay Area with their heads held high. Throughout much of the first and well into the second quarter, the matchup was quite the back-and-forth war of attrition. About halfway through the second, with the score knotted at 39, the Rockets went on a 14-2 run in 2:38. This would set the tone for the rest of the game, as Houston would continue to hold off a sustained and furious Warrior effort to climb back into the game.
Golden State rallied a bit to enter the half down by seven (61-54). Late in the third quarter, a Steph Curry two-point shot cut the Rockets' lead to four, at 86-82. Though, that lead would balloon again to double digits throughout much of the fourth, until the Dubs made one final run at Houston in the final minutes and seconds of the contest. Led by a solid late game effort by both Curry and Durant, scoring eight and six in the period, respectively, the Warriors drew to within two points with 19.3 seconds remaining in regulation. However, with the score sitting at 110-108, in Houston's favor, Harden was fouled and split his pair of free-throws.
The missed free throw by James Harden kept the door open for a game-tying three-pointer. On the next possession, Kevin Durant attempted and missed a 28-footer. Draymond Green stepped up and snatched the offensive rebound, giving Golden State one more opportunity. This time it was Steph's turn, but it would be to no avail, as his 33-foot attempt was no good. A Houston rebound, subsequent foul of Chris Paul, and his knocking down one of two from the line, spelled the end for the visiting Dubs. Harden and Co., with the Game 4 win, reset the series and brings new life into their next road matchup at the Oracle.
Curry and Durant stepped up big for Golden State in Monday's game. KD went 12/22 from the floor, scoring a team-high 34 and adding seven rebounds and five assists. Curry shook off some early struggles to post a solid: 30 points, 12/25 shooting, 4/14 three-pointers, four rebounds, and eight assists. Golden State now returns home to Oracle Arena to try and move one step closer to another trip to the Western Conference Finals in Game 5, Wednesday night in Oakland. What has become painfully obvious, after the two games in Houston, is that this current Rockets squad represents the best chance a James Harden-led Houston team has had to take down the juggernaut that is the Warriors.