Hot Start Helps Rockets Stave Off Elimination Against the Warriors

By Vincent Frank

The Houston Rockets are not done yet. Facing elimination in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, the home team dominated out of the gate. Houston made 8-of-9 from three-point range and tallied a first quarter NBA Playoff record 45 points in theĀ opening stanza.

Aided by this hot start, Houston was able to stave off what was a patented Warriors comeback in the second half. Leading by as much as 25 in the second quarter, the Rockets let Golden State get to within six points in the fourth. However, James Harden wasn’t having any of it:

The runner-up for the NBA’s MVP shot 13-of-22 from the field, including 7-of-11 from three-point range, en route to putting up 45 points.

Josh Smith added 20 points on 7-of-8 from the field, while Dwight Howard put up yet another double-double (14 points and 12 rebounds) in the 128-115 Rockets win.

For the Warriors, it was as if everything was working against the team. After falling down 45-22 following the first quarter, Steve Kerr’s squad had what we’d have to call a scary moment. Going up for a rebound with less than six minutes remaining in the second, Stephen Curry was accidentally upended by Rockets forward Trevor Ariza, resulting in a hard head-first fall to the hardwood.

What looked like a serious injury ended up being diagnosed as a head contusion. After a battery of concussion tests, Curry eventually returned to action with less than six minutes remaining in the third. Interestingly enough, Golden State outscored Houston by 10 points without Curry on the court for what amounted to be a quarter. Overall, Curry helped keep Golden State in the game with three long-range shots and a few nice dishes in the second half. He finished with 23 points on 6-of-13 from beyond the arc.

Draymond Green also had another stellar game before fouling out in the fourth. He tallied 21 points, 15 rebounds, four assists and five blocks.

However, it was all for naught. Golden State just couldn’t overcome Houston’s hot start and Harden’s ridiculous play to pull off the sweep.

This series now goes back to Oakland for Game 5 on Wednesday night at 9:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.

News & Notes

First time in NBA Playoff history that two teams have both made 15-plus three-point field goalsĀ in the same game.

NBA record 37 combined three-pointers in the game. Houston and Golden State also combined to take 78 three-point shots.

James Harden averaged 2.05 points per shot attempt. This came one game after Stephen Curry averaged 2.11 points per shot on Saturday night.

A lot of people questioned Curry returning to the game. However, NBA concussion protocol is clear: Curry had to receive the go ahead from forces outside of the Warriors control to return to the game.

Photo: USA Today Sports