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Analysis: Rockets even up the Western Conference Semifinals with 112-108 win over Warriors

The Warriors can’t overcome the Rockets’ energy or their three-point shooting, losing Game 4 despite 34 points from Kevin Durant.

Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets - Game Four Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

After coming up short in overtime of Game 3, the Warriors looked to get a road win in Game 4 (something they’ve done in 20 consecutive NBA Playoffs series) of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Houston Rockets and secure a decisive series lead. Unfortunately for Dub Nation, that was not in the plans.

Though the Warriors held a three-point lead at the end of the first quarter, the Rockets seized control of the game in the second quarter and never relinquished it. The Rockets led by as many as 17 points and manage to hold on—the Warriors cut the lead to two points with fifteen seconds remaining—to earn the win and tie this best-of-seven series up at two games apiece.

Not quite enough from Curry to get a win

Stephen Curry wanted to make everyone forget about his poor performance in Game 3. So the Warriors’ point guard came out determined in Game 4 to erase that memory from people’s minds. Curry scored 11 of his 30 points in the first quarter, giving the Warriors a slight advantage at the end of the game’s first twelve minutes. Though that lead would not last, Curry did his best to get his team going in the right directly early in the game.

Unfortunately, Curry couldn’t keep that pace going for the rest of the game as he scored just 19 points in the game’s remaining three quarters. Curry did come up with some big shots late in the fourth quarter, including this three-pointer that cut the Rockets’ lead to just two points with 15 seconds remaining.

Though Curry played much better in Game 4 than he did in Game 3, it still wasn’t quite enough to put his team over the top. Curry did have help in the form of Kevin Durant. Durant scored 34 points against the Rockets, his seventh game with 30+ points in the 2019 NBA Playoffs.

It wasn’t a particularly efficient game for Durant (he went 12/22 from the field) as he was forced to be more of a volume shooter while also contending with some challenging defending (more on that later). But Durant was the Warriors’ best offensive option in the second half and he tried to put the team on his back and steal a victory.

Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets - Game Four
Kevin Durant scored a team-high 34 points but the Warriors still came up short in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

With the margins of victory for the Rockets being so slim in the past two games, just a little bit more scoring (or consistent scoring at least) to go with Durant’s contributions would have allowed the Warriors to steal a win on the road. While the Warriors aren’t looking for moral victories (they’re only interested in real ones), it is worth noting this as a way of remembering that the Warriors are still very good and wholesale changes aren’t necessary for them to get back on a winning track.

Rockets control the three-point line

This game was decided, in large part, by three-point shooting. Not surprisingly, the Rockets made it a point of emphasis and attempted 50 three-pointers in Game 4. The Rockets made their fair share of three-pointers as well, draining 17 shots from beyond the arc as a team. They were led (not surprisingly) by James Harden who shot 6/17 from long distance on his way to scoring a game-high 38 points. Eric Gordon was yet again a thorn in Warriors’ side, scoring 20 points in the Rockets’ win Though he shot just 2/12 from three-point range, he continued to attempted those shots while the threat of him shooting stretched the Warriors’ defense and created looks for the Rockets.

While the Rockets unleashed a gauntlet from beyond the arc, the Warriors did not counter. The Warriors attempted 33 three-pointers in the game, considerably fewer than the Rockets’ number of attempts. And the Warriors did attempt shots from beyond the arc, they didn’t make them all that frequently. As a team, the Warriors shot 8/33 from three-point range in the Game 4 loss.

It was an especially rough night for Klay Thompson. Thompson scored just 11 points in Game 4 while going 1/6 from beyond the arc. It was a top-to-bottom bad game for Thompson, who did not play his usual solid defense as he picked up silly fouls and finished the game with a plus/minus of -12.

Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets - Game Four
Between poor shooting and some mistakes defending James Harden, Game 4 was one that Klay Thompson would like to forget.
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

In Game 5, one would expect to see the Warriors try and not just attempt more three-pointers but create better looks from long distance that they’re more likely to make. Because if the Warriors shot even a little better in Games 3 and 4, the outcomes of those games might have been dramatically different.

Giving the Tuck Wagon the proper respect

For the second consecutive game, the Warriors were out-hustled and out-muscled on the glass. The Rockets pulled down 13 offensive rebounds in Game 4 while the Warriors had just 8. Whether it was from boxing out and controlling the paint or hustling after a loose ball, the Rockets were better about creating more offensive opportunities while keeping the Warriors from getting anything going.

Once again, it was P.J. Tucker who brought that dogged relentlessness and energy. Tucker had 5 offensive rebounds in the Game 4 win and 10 rebounds overall. Tucker turned those offensive rebounds into points, scoring 17 points in victory. Tucker’s defense, especially on Durant, was impressive. Tucker recorded 2 steals and 1 block in his 41 minutes of action, most of it spent guarding one of the greatest scorers in NBA history.

While Harden commands the endorsements and creates the highlights with his offensive play, it is Tucker who might be their most important and toughest player. Between his defense, his rebounding, and his energy, he’s given the Warriors all they can handle in this series.

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets
Tucker did a little bit of everything in Game 4, giving the Rockets a boost of energy as they tied up this Western Conference Semifinals series.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

In Game 5, hopefully the Warriors can find a way to limit the impact Tucker has on the game. If they can’t, then things are going to be mighty difficult for the defending champions.

This sets up an incredibly important Game 5 of this series, which will be played on Wednesday night back at Oracle Arena in Oakland. All four games of this series have been exciting, dramatic, and riveting to watch. While Warriors fans would probably have preferred that the Dubs make quick work of the Rockets, it’s also all right to sit back and appreciate what an amazing battle this matchup it, the basketball equivalent of a heavyweight title fight. Durant commented on this during his postgame interviews:

“It was just great basketball out there. ... The way both teams are playing with such aggression and intensity, we look forward to playing Game 5.”

Exactly.