James Ham

After D'Antoni's harsh critique, Rockets prove they aren't soft with Game 4 win

After D'Antoni's harsh critique, Rockets prove they aren't soft with Game 4 win

OAKLAND -- Following Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals at Oracle Arena Sunday evening, Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni called his team soft. After a stunning 95-92 victory in Game 4 Tuesday evening, he backtracked a bit on his critique of his team.

“They’re not soft and they proved it. I misspoke and you guys miswrote it,” D’Antoni said with a laugh.

Twice the Rockets fell behind by 12 points, once in the wild first quarter and again in the early fourth. But they rode out the offensive outbursts of the Golden State Warriors and showed incredible grit and physicality down the stretch.

“We’ve been doing it all year long, that’s the main reason we’re in this position today,” James Harden said following the victory over the Warriors. “That third game was just one loss.”

It’s not easy to shake off a 41-point drubbing, but that is exactly what the Rockets did on Tuesday. A raucous Oracle crowd turned silent when Stephen Curry missed a potential tying 3-ball as time expired.

“I think there was great basketball played on both sides, stretches of it,” D’Antoni said. “The rest of it is just gutting it out and finding a will, a way, a want.”

With the win, the Rockets have retaken home court advantage as the series moves back to Houston. They’ll play two of the next three at the Toyota Center, if the series goes a full seven games.

“We’re back to even. We know what we have to do. See if we can do it against a great team,” D’Antoni said.

Clamping Down in the Fourth Quarter
Houston is an offensive juggernaut. During the regular season, they hoisted 3-point shots at an incredible clip and finished the year with the league’s second highest scoring offense.

But the playoffs are a different game and the Rockets are adjusting to the physicality of the NBA’s second season. For one night, they played playoff caliber defense, especially late in the contest with the game on the line.

After falling behind big in the fourth, Houston turned up the intensity and the Warriors didn’t respond well. The Rockets held Golden State to just 12 points in the fourth quarter on 3-of-18 shooting.

“We were really disciplined all game long, especially in the fourth,” Clint Capela said.

Houston’s rotations were on point throughout the final 12 minutes as they held the Warriors to 0-of-6 from behind the arc. What few shots the Warriors did make were contested well.

“When we’re locked in and we’re all on a string, we’re a really good team,” veteran Trevor Ariza said.

Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant combined to hit 2-of-13 from the field in the final frame as Rockets came away with the unlikely road win.

Harden Disappears
Harden was on his way to a breakout game Tuesday evening at Oracle Arena. He’d used an array of crossover dribbles and step back 3-pointers to lead Houston with 24 first half points.

After shooting 8-of-17 in the first two quarters, the likely league MVP struggled after the break. He finished the evening with 30 points, scoring six points in the second half on 3-of-9 from the field and 0-for-6 from long range.

“I don’t care how many points I scored, who cares, we won,” Harden told the media following the game.

Harden is correct, the final score is all that matters in the end. Harden looked like a completely different player after the intermission, but his team is all knotted up at 2-2 against the reigning Champs.

Game Result/Schedule
Game 1 Warriors 119, Rockets 106
Game 2 Rockets 127, Warriors 105
Game 3 Warriors 126, Rockets 85
Game 4 Rockets 95, Warriors 92
Game 5 Houston -- Thursday, May 24th at 6pm
Game 6 Oakland -- Saturday, May 26th at 6pm
Game 7 Houston -- Monday, May 28th at 6pm

Red-hot third quarter pushes Warriors halfway to fourth straight NBA Finals

Red-hot third quarter pushes Warriors halfway to fourth straight NBA Finals

That moment. It comes out of nowhere.

While fans were still putting mustard on hot dogs coming out of halftime Sunday evening at Oracle Arena, the Golden State Warriors were busy dropping the hammer on the Houston Rockets.

Almost every team in the league has faced an offensive run by the Warriors. Once it starts, it’s one of the more difficult things to stop in the NBA.

Golden State took a modest 54-43 lead into halftime and then unleashed the fury on Houston coming out of he break. The Warriors hit the visitors with a 10-0 run to start the third and ran away from the Rockets for a 126-85 win.

Stephen Curry shook off early game shooting struggled to hit the Rockets with 18 points in the third. Curry hit all seven of his shots in the period, including a pair of 3-pointers and four free throws.

“Steph definitely got it going,” Draymond Green said following the win. “I think it was very important for him to get to the basket. Once he started getting to the basket, then all of the sudden the threes opened up and they started to fall."

With the Rockets chasing the two-time league MVP around the court, Kevin Durant added 10 of his 25 points in the quarter 4-of-6 shooting. Once the pair got hot, there was nothing the Rockets could do but try to limit the damage.

“We played soft, actually,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said. “You can’t do that with these guys, these guys are good."

Houston tried to respond, cutting the Warriors lead to 21 heading to the fourth quarter, but the rout was on. Golden State outscored the Rockets 38-18 in the fourth to give them their largest margin of victory in team playoff history.

“The second half, we came out too slow, too slow, too soft,” James Harden said. “Offensively, we didn’t have any thrust and they exploited it."

Curry knocked down a pair of triples in the fourth to finish the evening with 35 points. After a rough couple of shooting games in the playoffs, the All-Star guard appeared to find his mojo.

“I have the highest expectations for myself and you just got to find whatever it is to get you going,” Curry said. “Obviously, it felt good and you want to use that energy to show your teammates that you’re here, that you’re with them and get the crowd into it. But it’s just one game and you have to have that same type of energy and intensions and focus next game."

All five Warriors starters scored in double figures as they took a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals. 

The two teams return to Oracle on Tuesday where Golden State will try to hold home-court advantage and move one step closer to a fourth straight NBA Finals.

Game Result/Schedule
Game 1 Warriors 119, Rockets 106
Game 2 Rockets 127, Warriors 105
Game 3 Warriors 126, Rockets 85
Game 4 Oakland -- Tuesday, May 22nd at 6pm
Game 5 Houston -- Thursday, May 24th at 6pm
Game 6 Oakland -- Saturday, May 26th at 6pm
Game 7 Houston -- Monday, May 28th at 6pm

 

Possible Kings' top pick Luka Doncic named EuroLeague MVP

Possible Kings' top pick Luka Doncic named EuroLeague MVP

When the Kings moved up to the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the excitement in Sacramento was palpable. General Manager Vlade Divac and the team’s management group could go in a couple of different directions, but European star Luka Doncic is expected to get plenty of consideration for a Kings team in search of a franchise player.

On Saturday, Doncic was named the Turkish Airlines MVP of the EuroLeague, which only adds more fuel to the fire in Sacramento.  

“It’s amazing, it’s like a dream come true,” the 19-year-old Slovenian told media members on Saturday. “Still, we have one more game to go, which would make me so much more happier.”

The 6-foot-8 wing posted 16.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 25.9 minutes per game for Real Madrid.

Doncic and his Real Madrid teammates will face off with Fenerbahce in the European Cup Finals on Sunday. His 16-point, 7-rebound performance against CSKA Moscow on Friday helped propel his club into the championship game.

“It’s going to be really really hard,” Doncic said. “Fenerbahce has an amazing team, amazing coach, they have amazing fans. So it’s going to be a really hard game. We need to be focused 40 minutes, every possession and like a team. We need to play like a team.”

There is still a possibility that Doncic could unseat Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton for the top overall selection in the draft. He’s a versatile player that can play the point guard, shooting guard and small forward position and is considered one of the best prospects to come out of Europe in the last two decades.