The Houston Rockets responded with their backs against the wall, stopping themselves from getting swept, winning 128-115 in Game 4. They got hot early, going up as much as 25 points on Golden State, but as we know, no lead his safe when going up against the Warriors. Golden State had a moment of fear when MVP Steph Curry took a painful fall going up for a block on Trevor Ariza, but luckily he was able to return with a minor head contusion. Golden State was able to make two late runs but it wasn’t enough to overcome the hot shooting of James Harden and the Houston Rockets.
This is a sticky situation for the Warriors because Houston now has the confidence that they can come back in this series. A territory that Coach McHale and company is quite familiar with, as they battled back from a 3-1 deficit against the Los Angeles Clippers in the previous series in which they came out victorious. Josh Smith played phenomenal last game, shooting 7-for-8 from the field — and for the Rockets to have any chance of coming back in this series, they need that type of play from him each game. James Harden and Dwight Howard just isn’t enough, but when Smith is putting up buckets and everyone else around is hitting shots, then the Rockets are just as good as anyone else in this league.
Golden State has to have a sense of urgency tonight, which was something they lacked early in their previous game. A closeout game on their home court, the Warriors have to get the task done because in this situation, you don’t want to give any more hope to this Houston team. However, Golden State has to be confident knowing they are playing a closeout game on their home court. Oracle Arena is going to be extremely loud, as fans will expect a Game 5 win to end the series. The momentum will be in the hands of the Warriors as they look to make their first trip to the NBA Finals since 1975.
Keys for Game 5
- Silence the crowd – The Warriors fans will be loud but the way to minimize that is to get stops, make shots, and gain control of the game.
- Stay with Curry – I expect Steph Curry to come out firing away after missing a chunk of last game. He has gotten too many open shots in this series so if Houston wants a shot of staying alive, they must keep bodies on him at all times so he doesn’t get going.
- Just play basketball – Houston must continue to take it one game at a time. It’s important they not think about their situation too much because then they begin to put pressure on themselves. If I’m James Harden or Kevin McHale, I’m preaching to my team, “Be fearless, and go out there and play our brand of basketball.”
For Golden State:
- Get a hot start – The Warriors are on their home court, in front of arguably the loudest fans in basketball. It’s key they hit shots early and gain as much of an advantage as they can from the jump. When they control the pace of the game, they are so hard to beat so I would try to get out to a quick start and force Houston to play from behind.
- Turnovers! – Turnovers have been Golden State’s Achilles heel all year. The Rockets scored 22 points off of their 15 turnovers in Game 4 and that can’t happen if they want to end this series tonight. The Warriors must take care of the ball and not give Harden any extra possessions.
- Klay Thompson – Klay has been struggling in this series but we saw a glimpse of what Thompson is capable of in Game 4, after Curry went to the locker room. Coach Kerr should look to get him going in the beginning of the game. Klay serves as a key piece in what they like to do offensively, so it’s important he knocks down shots early to help regain some confidence.
I originally picked the Warriors to win this series in 5 and I’m sticking with it. The lack of effort displayed early on in the previous game was very unacceptable and I’m sure Coach Kerr explained that to his team. I’m expecting to see a lot of what we saw early on in Game 4, but with the teams in opposite roles. Golden State is just too good and I anticipate a young team, yearning for a shot at the title, to come out and close this series in front of their home crowd.