The Rockets’ fourth-quarter defense was the nailed that sealed the Game 4 victory. They held the defending NBA champions to only 12 points in the final 12 minutes; Steph Curry had three of those points.
Prior to the fourth quarter, it looked like a re-run episode of Game 2. Steph Curry had begun his hot shooting display by scoring 11 straight points, which included three consecutive 3 pointers. As a result, Houston entered the final quarter trailing by 10 points and locked in.
“I thought this is the highest level we’ve ever played defensively, without a doubt,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We’re talking about the best offensive team ever.”
The Warriors trailed by three with 1:30 remaining in the game. Both Curry and Klay Thompson missed consecutive 3 pointers. They could have taken two points to trim the lead to one, but they opted to take the same shot twice.
James Harden finished with 30 points, including an emphatic, posterizing dunk over the reigning defensive player of the year, Draymond Green resulting in a 3 point play.
Harden’s backcourt running mate, Chris Paul, added 27 points.
The Warriors opted to not call a timeout with 11.1 seconds remaining. Instead, Kevin Durant dribbled the ball full court and passed it to a trapped Klay Thomson in the corner. The stifling Rockets defense forced Thompson to toss up a contested fadeaway. Paul collected the final rebound of the night off Thompson’s miss.
Although time had expired, a replay review showed that Paul was fouled by Shaun Livingston and 0.5 was added to the clock. Paul would split the free throws, giving the Warriors one more chance to send the game to overtime. Steph Curry would get a good look from 3 but to no avail. Most likely the attempted 3 point shot would not have counted because Curry did not get the shot off in time.
The Warriors were without Andre Iguodala. The 2015 finals MVP injured his knee in a collision with James Harden in Game 3. Iguodala takes the pressure off the Warriors offensive weapons. Durant, Curry, and Thompson are allowed more room to operate. After an evaluation on Tuesday, he was listed questionable for Game 4. We will continue to follow his status for Game 5.
With the series tied at 2 games apiece, game 5 should be the most pivotal game of the series. Objective basketball fans would want a decisive 7th game. We will have to wait and see.
The Rockets return back to Houston to host Game 5 on Thursday. (May 24)
Photo courtesy of Houston Rockets Twitter