Warriors Blow Two different Leads, Lose Home-Court advantage in 95-92 Loss
After a dominant performance in their Game Three wins, the Golden State Warriors (10-3) took on the Houston Rockets (9-4) in Game Four with a chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead. Stephen Curry was looking to follow up his volcanic second half in Game Three with a stellar performance throughout Game Four. The Warriors were struck by the injury bug yet again though, as Andre Iguodala, who suffered a knee contusion in the third quarter of Game Three, was out for Game Four, despite being listed as “questionable” for today’s game. The Houston Rockets, at full strength, were looking to even the series and take home court advantage back by taking advantage of Iguodala’s injury. Kevon Looney was in the starting lineup in place of Andre Iguodala following his incredible defensive effort in the first three games of the season. The Houston Rockets went on to beat the Warriors 95-92.
The first quarter got started on a perfect mid range jumper from Klay Thompson that hit nothing but net, and that first shot opened the floodgates for the Warriors. Stephen Curry picked up where he left off in Game Three by nailing his first three of the game. Draymond Green and Kevon Looney both got layups to fall, and Kevin Durant nailed a three from the top of the key that forced a Rockets timeout with 7:06 left in the quarter. If you are wondering why no Rockets were mentioned before the timeout, it is because the score was 12-0 Warriors, and the Rockets were 0/7 from the field with two turnovers. Following the timeout, Stephen Curry committed a turnover after Chris Paul put up an airball, which led to James Harden scoring the first points of the game for Houston, after over five minutes of game time. Following that layup from Harden, Steve Kerr called timeout to stop the bleeding with the Warriors up only 12-2. Following that timeout, the Rockets were able to get some offense going. James Harden got another layup to fall before getting the shooter’s roll on a three. The rest of the Rockets could not do much, and Harden was having a strange game, passing up a wide-open three after getting a steal in favor of a three for PJ Tucker. The Warriors were able to keep scoring, although not from beyond the arc. Draymond Green threw down a dunk, Steph got an and-1 layup to fall, and the Warriors had a nine point lead with 2:36 left in the game. Following the timeout at 2:36, Kevin Durant got an and-1 baseline jumper to fall for the Warriors’ first bucket in the final two minutes. In those final two minutes, the Warriors were able to get another mid range jumper from Kevin Durant over PJ Tucker, as well as a nice tap-in from Jordan Bell. The Rockets were able to score a couple more times, on some Clint Capela free throws and an Eric Gordon and-1 dunk. The last sequence of the quarter was particularly fun, as Jordan Bell had an emphatic block on Clint Capela before Eric Gordon got a cutting layup to fall with 0.4 second left in the game. As a team, the Warriors were shooting 50% from the floor and 33.3% (2/6) from three, while the Rockets shot just 35% from the floor and 28.6% (2/7 from three). Kevin Durant was the leading scorer for the Warriors with 10 points, while both Draymond and Stephen had six each. James Harden had nine points to lead the Rockets. After the first quarter, the Warriors led the Rockets 28-19.
The second quarter got started for the Warriors with a powerful dunk from Shaun Livingston, but the Warriors offense was looking more stagnant than it was initially for the first half of the quarter. They were running a lot of isolations for Kevin Durant, and while he was able to finish on them a couple times, the Rockets weren’t doing a terrible job of defending it. The Rockets were scoring a little more than they were in the first quarter, as James Harden knocked down his second three of the game. Eric Gordon got another layup to fall, but the Rockets were still struggling to score, and looked checked-out at times. The first timeout of the quarter was called with 6:43 left in the half and the Warriors leading the Rockets 36-28. After that time out, James Harden threw down a powerful and-1 dunk to get the Rockets back into it. Following that dunk, there was one of the most poorly officiated minutes of basketball that I have ever seen, as James Harden was gifted five points and the Warriors couldn’t get a call with the Rockets climbing all over them on three straight shots. The Rockets managed to cut the lead to one point on some free throws by Clint Capela, but the Warriors answered back with a corner three from Klay Thompson to bring the lead back up to four points and force a timeout from Mike D’Antoni with 3:52 left in the half and the Warriors winning 41-37. Following that time out, Chris Paul made a corner three and a free throw after flopping on a hip-check from Kevon Looney to tie the game. Klay Thompson prompt un-tied the game with a corner three, and then Chris Paul made another three. The Rockets then took off, and built a 10-point lead after two steals on Kevin Durant isolation plays (which are SUPER fun by the way). Stephen Curry got in foul trouble pretty early in the quarter and sat until there were 16 seconds left after getting three fouls called on him. During Steph’s absence, the Warriors offense consisted of two things: Kevin Durant iso’s and turnovers, and sometimes those things became a fun combination on the same play. The Rockets went on a 17-5 run with Steph on the bench, and that allowed them to take a lead into the half. As a team, the Rockets were shooting 42.5% from the floor and 41.2% (7/17) from three, while the Warriors shot 38.8% from the floor and 25% (3/12) from three. James Harden had 24 points to lead the Rockets and Chris Paul added 14 of his own while making three threes. Kevin Durant had 15 to lead the Warriors, but the next highest scorers were Stephen Curry and Draymond Green with eight points each, which was not nearly enough. The Warriors committed nine turnovers in the first half, and it felt like nearly all of them were in the second quarter. The Rockets committed seven turnovers, but the Warriors were lackadaisical on offense and did not always convert. The biggest differentiation between the two teams in the first half was free throws. The Rockets connected on 12/14 of them, whereas the Warriors went 5/5. They only got to the line five times. Five. There was certainly no home cooking from an officiating standpoint in the first half. At halftime, the Rockets led the Warriors 53-46.
The third quarter started with both teams trading baskets, but the Warriors managed to get themselves right back into the game. Stephen Curry got a three to fall after Kevon Looney grabbed an offensive rebound, Kevin Durant hit a turnaround jumper over Chris Paul, and Jordan Bell threw down a dunk. The Rockets were doing their thing on offense, and that is flop, shoot threes and free throws. It was incredibly annoying to watch the Warriors be unable to be within three feet of a Rocket as they shot, but it is what it is. Through nearly six minutes of the quarter, the only way the Rockets scored were on floaters and free throws, and they still had their lead. The first real time out of the quarter was called with 6:21 left and the Rockets leading by five points. Coming out of that timeout, Stephen Curry drained a 30-foot three to ignite Oracle Arena once again, and then he hit another one on the next possession to give the Warriors a one-point lead with 5:19 left in the third, and the Rockets called timeout. He then hit a three on the first possession after the timeout, his third straight possession with a made three. Klay Thompson then drilled a three to further ignite the crowd, which Durant followed up with a free-throw line jumper to force D’Antoni to call another timeout with 2:52 left in the quarter. Now, buried in that barrage from the Warriors was a three from Chris Paul, but watching him play basketball isn’t fun so I didn’t write it when it happened. With 2:52 left in the third, the Warriors led the Rockets 73-65. Following that final timeout, Stephen Curry made another three, his fifth of the quarter, and then Kevin Durant nailed an impressive mid range jumper while falling out of bounds. The Rockets were down by ten points at the end of the quarter due to the outburst from the only unanimous MVP the NBA has ever seen. As a team, the Warriors finished the third shooting 45.1% overall and 42.9% (9/21) from three, while the Rockets finished shooting 40.4% from the floro and 34.6% (9/26) from three. Stephen Curry was the leading scorer for the Warriors with 25 points, 17 of which came in the third. He nailed five threes in the quarter, several of which came over Clint Capela, who said prior to the game that he would stop Curry’s threes, and Steph took notice. Kevin Durant had 21 at the end of the third as the second-leading scorer for the Warriors. James Harden led the Rockets with 28 points, but had a relatively quiet third quarter. After the third, the Warriors led the Rockets 80-70.
Shaun Livingston opened the fourth quarter by dunking all over Clint Capela, but then the Rockets went on a 9-0 run to get right back into the game after what felt like six different dagger threes in the third. The Rockets were able to make some easy shots around the rim and at the free throw line, while the Warriors were stagnant and using too much isolation with Stephen Curry on the bench. Draymond Green had a chance to throw down a dunk just before the first timeout of the quarter, but got blocked by the rim. The first timeout of the quarter was called with 7:58 left in the quarter and the Warriors lead at three points. The Rockets managed to take a lead, as the Warriors offense in the fourth quarter was absolutely miserable. Chris Paul hit the Kyrie Irving Game Seven shot, made a cross-court pass for a Trevor Ariza three, and the Rockets were just playing great on offense. Kevin Durant became a vacuum on offense and was missing some terrible shots while being guarded by Chris Paul. The Rockets built a five-point lead after some free throws for Eric Gordon, but Stephen Curry got an and-1 floater to fall over James Harden to cut the lead to three by the time the Rockets called timeout with 3:18 left in the game. Curry finished his and-1 after the timeout, but then Eric Gordon nailed a three to bring the lead back to five points for the Rockets. Kevin Durant then got two free throws to fall, cutting the lead to three points. The following 30 seconds consisted of the Warriors throwing up threes early in the shot clock, Rockets clanking layups, and Eric Gordon missing a wide-open three. A timeout was called with less than one minute left and the lead sitting at three. Draymond Green then got fouled and went 1/2 from the free throw line. The Warriors then got a stop, and completely blew an opportunity for a wide open three from Kevin Durant as Klay Thompson got absolutely clamped for the last 10 seconds even though Steve Kerr could have called timeout. The Warriors then foul Chris Paul, he missed his first free throw, made his second, and the Warriors called timeout for one last shot, which Steph Curry missed from the corner, as the Rockets won 95-92.
The Warriors finished the game shooting 39.3% from the floor and 33.3% (9/27) from three. In the fourth quarter, the Warriors were absolutely atrocious on offense. They went 3/18 from the field in the fourth quarter, and perhaps more importantly, they went 0/6 from beyond the arc on several good, open looks. Stephen Curry finished as the team’s leading scorer with 28 points after his huge third quarter that saw him score 17 points, but he was not good in the other three quarters. In the first, second, and fourth quarters he scored only 11 points. He only scored three points in the entire fourth quarter. Kevin Durant finished with 27 points, but he has some dreadful offensive possessions as well, and he shot 9/24. Stephen Curry also took several bad shots, so the blame is not all on Durant in that department. Curry went 10/26 from the field. Draymond Green went 4/8 with 11 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, and a block. While that statline looks like a recipe for a Warriors win, he turned the ball over five times, which was awful. He also got blocked by the rim on a dunk, which certainly could have changed the outcome of the game. Klay Thompson was abysmal all game, going 4/13 and scoring only 10 points.
The starting lineup for the Warriors combined to score 80 of the team’s 92 points. Jordan Bell had six points off the bench, Shaun Livingston had four points, and Nick Young had two points. Shaun Livingston turned the ball over four times in 15 minutes, Jordan Bell goaltended on a layup, and Nick Young took some awful shots. Eric Gordon had 14 points off the bench for the Rockets by himself, so he alone outscored the Warrior reserves.
James Harden had 30 points to lead the Rockets, but only six of those came in the second half, so there’s that, OH, and he went 3/12 from three. Chris Paul had 27 points on 10/20 shooting, and got away with several absurd push offs like he does every game so there isn’t much a point in me pointing it out now. Eric Gordon had 14 points for the Rockets, and those three players were the only three in double figures. As a team, the Rockets shot 39% from the floor and 31.6% (12/38) from three.
There were a myriad of reasons that the Warriors lost this game, and I assure you that i will not get into it because I am far too frustrated and have far too little energy to do so at this moment. There are two very clear reasons for why the Warriors lost this game though, and I will cover them briefly. The Golden State Warriors, who were one of the league’s worst teams in terms of turnovers, turned the ball over 16 times, and allowed the Rockets to capitalize on that most of the time. Steph had 3 turnovers, Durant had 2, Draymond had 5, and Shaun Livingston had 4. When the Warriors turned the ball over at least 16 times in the regular season, that was when they lost. The other reason, and this will sounds ridiculous because it is the standard “oh, my team lost” complaint, was the officiating. Over the course of the 48 minute basketball game, the Warriors committed 24 personal fouls, and the Rockets shot 27 free throws, making 23 of them. That was 23 free points. Now, some of those fouls were legit, obviously, but there were several calls that weren’t even close to being real fouls that were given in the benefit of James Harden and Chris Paul. The Rockets on the other hand, played 48 minutes of intense, chippy basketball, just like the Warriors, and only committed 19 fouls, sending the Warriors to the line for only 14 free throws. FOURTEEN. Of those 14 free throws, they made 13. That was very clearly one of the big differences in this game.
The bottom line in this Game Four was that the Warriors deserved to lose. They got cocky, blew two 10-point leads, and were incredible sloppy. They made me upset, and I am not sure if I have ever been as irritated at a basketball game as I am at this one, and I watched every game of the 2016 NBA Finals.
Anyways, the Warriors had their record-breaking 16-game playoff home winning streak snapped tonight by the Rockets, who evened the series at 2-2. Just so we’re all clear here, since 2015 (the year Steve Kerr became head coach) the Golden State Warriors have gone 49-11 after a loss, which is the best in the league by a large margin. The Warriors will win Game Five in Houston, and then Clinch a fourth-consecutive NBA Finals berth at home in Game Six. Count on it.
Game Five of the Western Conference Finals will take place on Thursday, May 24, in Houston at 6 p.m. on TNT.