West Finals Head Back To Houston after Rockets’ Stunning Win Evens Series
Most people wrote Houston off after dropping Game 1 at home, and any good vibes earned with a Game 2 win were completely evaporated in a 41-point shellacking in Game 3 in Oakland. But the Rockets dug deep in Game 4, getting off the mat after the Warriors scored the first 12 points and eventually walking away with a 95-92 win to send this series back to Texas tied at two.
Golden State was -1000 to win the series after taking that 2-1 lead over the weekend, and if there were real-time series prices within a game, imagine how high that could have climbed during the Warriors’ 12-0 start Tuesday. The Rockets recovered and led by seven at halftime thanks to a massive second quarter from James Harden and Chris Paul, but Golden State’s red-hot third put Houston in a 10-point hole heading into the fourth.
The Rockets showed their 65-win season was no fluke by clamping down defensively. Golden State went 3 of 18 in the fourth, the worst single quarter it’s had in the postseason during this four-season run of dominance. The Warriors wound up shooting 39.3 percent, just the third time in 58 games in the West playoffs over the last four years that they’ve been below 40 percent (both others also have happened in this postseason). Houston also slowed the pace to a series-low 95 possessions.
One of the big questions heading into Game 5 is the status of Andre Iguodala. He missed Game 4 with a left leg injury, and the bet here is that he’ll play on Thursday. The Warriors definitely need him, as they’re fairly short on wing defenders if he can’t go – and they need all the help they can get after Harden and Paul combined for 57 of Houston’s 95 points on Tuesday.
What Golden State needs offensively is more from Klay Thompson. After pouring in 28 points on 9 of 18 shooting in Game 1, Thompson is 13 for 38 (34.2 percent) from the field and has totaled just 31 points in the past three games. In Game 4, he scored 10 points on the 19 possessions he was guarded by James Harden and zero points on the other 57 possessions he was in the game for, per NBA.com.
Here’s a look at what the Warriors have done on the road in the first three rounds the past three seasons: 2014-15: 5-2, plus-57 points; 2015-16: 3-4, minus-24 points; 2016-17: 6-0, plus-94 points. They’re 3-3 and have been outscored by two points outside of Oracle Arena this postseason, and taking a look back on the last three playoffs you notice a trend: They ruled the road prior to the NBA Finals in the two seasons they won the title.
Golden State is shooting 31.6 percent from 3-point range on the road in these playoffs and 31.0 percent when they have anything less than three days’ rest between games. I hate to break it to the Warriors, but two of the final three games in this series – should it go the distance – will be on the road, and there’s a scant day off plus travel between all of them. If Steve Kerr’s team wants to make it to a fourth straight Finals, it’s going to have to break those trends at least once.
Golden State was 12 minutes from taking a 3-1 lead and cruising into the Finals, whether it finished things off Thursday in Houston or Saturday in Oakland. Now, the Warriors are faced with the very real possibility that their four-year romp through the Western Conference could come to a premature end. They’ll have to win at least once in Houston, and given the uncertainty surrounding Iguodala and the inconsistency that’s plagued Thompson, that’s far from a sure thing. But it’s been two years since this team lost back-to-back playoff games, and they seem to focus on the rare occasions when their backs are against the wall.