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 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 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|