The Houston Rockets entered the Western Conference Finals versus the Golden State Warriors with the home court advantage and promptly watched it evaporate in 48 minutes in a 119-106 defeat in game 1. With their season essentially on the line they responded in a big way to even the series with a 127-105 blow out in game 2.
As the series shifted to Oakland the Rockets knew what awaited them there. They knew Golden State would respond and look to hold serve at home. All of that knowledge wasn’t enough as the Rockets made the wrong kind of franchise history. The 126-85 drubbing was the worst playoff loss in franchise history.
The stage for game 4 was the same as it was for game 2. Houston once again needed to summon a response to pull even in the series and avoid falling into a near fatal two game hole. Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said that “the Warriors had all the pressure” coming into this game. They quickly put all of the pressure on Houston and attempted to start game 4 the way they ended game 3 by jumping out to a quick 12-0 first quarter lead. That’s not the type of start you need in Oracle when you’re 0-7 in that building in the playoffs.
Eric Gordon “only” had 14 points but his play in the first quarter was critical in terms of helping Houston settle down and climb back into the game when they were on the verge of being run out of the gym. His aggressiveness was the key and it was contagious as other Rockets finally got going.
Speaking of getting going, that’s exactly what James Harden did.
JAMES HARDEN KILLED A MAN pic.twitter.com/RAQj8twy50
— The Crossover (@TheCrossover) May 23, 2018
After putting Draymond Green on that poster Harden ramped it up on the defensive end as well. He got in the passing lane and got a steal and hit a trailing Chris Paul for a lay up. On the next possession he picked Kevin Durant’s pocket and got a lay up of his own to help Houston to a 53-46 lead at the half.
Houston still had to weather an infamous Warriors third quarter outburst as they saw their lead wither away and turn into a 10-point deficit (80-70) after three quarters. Chris Paul picked up where James Harden left off and sparked yet another Rockets rally with several clutch plays down the stretch.
Golden State jumped out early with 12 unanswered points to start the game, they only mustered 12 points in the entire fourth quarter as Houston walked out of Oracle with a 95-92 win and home court advantage once again. Not only had Houston never won in Oracle in the playoffs, they had never even led in the fourth quarter there in the playoffs. Now they can put checks in all of those boxes. That said, they can’t relax for one second, Golden State has already punched them in the mouth in the Toyota Center in this series.
Game 5 is going to be fun.