Rockets steal a Western thriller
FINALLY a close-finishing Conference Finals game.
Houston proved its crunchtime chops on Wednesday to steal a 95-92 game-four thriller and square its series with Golden State at 2-2.
The Rockets will return to Houston for game five knowing they can secure an NBA Finals appearance with two home wins.
James Harden (30 points) and Chris Paul (27 points) were enormous for the visitors as they fought back from a 10-point deficit with a quarter to play to eke out an unlikely win.
Harden struggled after a 24-point first half but the Rockets led 94-89 after an Eric Gordon triple with 2:27 to play.
The only scores from that point came from the foul line as Kevin Durant passed up an opportunity to take the game-tying shot with the Warriors down 94-92 with just seconds remaining.
Durant passed the ball to Klay Thompson, who was unable to get an effective shot off.
"That's not the reason why we lost the game," Durant said.
"But I definitely wish I had that last play back."
Paul rebounded Thompson's miss just before the final buzzer sounded for the first time and pounded the ball down in delight.
A replay review ensued and it was determined Shaun Livingston fouled Paul before the game ended, so Paul made a free throw with 0.5 seconds left.
Curry couldn't get off a final attempt before the buzzer.
The Warriors scored just 12 points in the fourth quarter as their offence fell apart.
"I thought this was the highest level we've ever played defensively," Houston coach Mike D'Antoni said.
It snapped a run of 16 consecutive home playoff wins for Golden State.
Steph Curry scored 28 points and Kevin Durant added 27 points and 12 rebounds but the defending champions, who lost Andre Iguodala to a knee injury before the game, missed their final six shots from the floor.
"We just ran out of gas," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
After seven one-sided contests across the East and West, an eighth appeared on the cards as Houston missed its first eight shots of game four against Golden State to trail 12-0.
But the Rockets responded in outstanding fashion in a 34-18 second quarter to take a seven-point half-time lead.
Harden was exceptional as he enjoyed arguably the greatest half of basketball of his career.
The MVP favourite had 24 points, three assists and two offensive rebounds and also made a huge defensive contribution with three steals and two blocks. Oh, and he dunked all over Draymond Green.
But just like he did in game three, Curry took over in the third quarter. After 18 points in the third quarter of game three, Curry pumped in 17 in game four to turn a 53-46 deficit into a 80-70 lead.
But the Rockets responded again as we finally saw some meaningful fourth-quarter minutes, minutes that didn't go so well for Golden State.