Los Angeles, CA — After that Game 1 loss to the Golden State Warriors (104-100) in the Western Conference semifinals, the Houston Rockets were kicking themselves because they felt that had everything going their way. They had just come off a shorter five-game series against the Utah Jazz, while the Warriors were taken to six games by the Los Angeles Clippers. They even flew out early to the bay area, to give themselves time to get acclimated to the time change and the venue, while the Warriors had to play a Game 6 back in Los Angeles. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson had both rolled their ankles in the final game against LA, and had to turn around and play a primetime game in less than 48 hours.
Despite all of those things potentially working in Houston's favor, they still were unable to come away with the win.
They were unable to recover in Game 2, and on top of that, their reigning MVP James Harden took a shot to both his eyes that blurred his vision. They overcame both of those losses tying the series at two games after a 112-108 win in Game 4 on Monday night.
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Things changed when Houston re-evaluated their gameplan to take out the two-time defending champs. Just attempting to knock down more 3-pointers was not going to be enough. Yes, big offensive performances from superstar Harden with 38 points and 10 rebounds (79 points combined), as well as Eric Gordon’s 20 points (50 combined in Games 3 & 4), contributed in a big way.
The difference has been the rebounding for Houston.
They are a +27 in rebounding (105-78) in both wins. PJ Tucker has been the catalyst behind all of that. He has 22 rebounds in those games. Despite two straight wins, the Rockets still don't think they've played their best.
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“When you're dealing with these guys, if you let Klay (Thompson) and Steph (Curry) run around and shoot 3s, you don't have no chance," Harden said. "The only chance we have is to be in to their bodies and make every shot that they take contested."
"We've got to be better," Tucker said, who scored 17 points. "We've got to be more aggressive. We've got to pick it up.” Chris Paul had 13 points and five assists.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr was asked about the physical play: "They've got a lot of middle linebackers on that team," he said. "They're sturdy and we're like volleyball players, long and lean ... everybody tries to be physical with us because they should. That's the best way to try to beat us."
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Warriors earned 34 points from Kevin Durant (13-22) FG, seven rebounds, and seven assists. “We got a couple of wide-open looks," Durant said. "They just didn't fall for us." Curry scored 30 points and said after the game about his recent struggles shooting the ball:
"The last 48 hours have been pretty funny, hearing all the noise and chatter about how I've been playing in this series, and I take it all in stride and understand what I'm capable of ... I know I can play even better. I'm just trying to stay within my own zone with what I expect from myself."
Draymond Green chipped in with 15 points and Klay Thompson struggled shooting just 1-6 from 3-pt.
Next game: Wednesday 5/8 in Oakland.