In Game 4, the Rockets evened the series at two apiece, effectively making it a best of three to advance to the Conference Finals. Each game has been tightly contested, and neither squad has been able to beat the other at home.
The first two games were full of controversy, and despite the Warriors grabbing a quick 2-0 lead, the controversy kept things interesting. The story of Game 1 was landing space fouls (or the lack thereof), while Game 2 featured Steph Curry dislocating a finger and James Harden getting a nasty scratch to the eye following a swipe by Draymond Green.
Game 3 went to OT, however, it ended abruptly after Curry blew a wide open dunk and several Warriors walked off the court rather than fouling in the remaining 15 seconds. Game 4 featured an excellent duel between former teammates Kevin Durant and James Harden. Durant led Golden State with his 34 points, while Harden led all scorers with 38 of his own. With the series all knotted up, what are the keys for each team to take a 3-2 lead?
Keys for the Rockets
As always, everything with Houston starts with James Harden. Despite his eye injury, Harden has been excellent this series, and especially so since the injury. Through four games, he’s putting up 35.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists, however, he could definitely be more efficient. He’s only shooting 41.7 percent from the field and 34.0 percent from deep, which certainly leaves a bit to be desired. Harden is likely to have another huge game, but he’ll need significant contributions from his teammates to take a 3-2 lead.
Chris Paul & Eric Gordon
Chris Paul hasn’t been bad this series, but he could certainly be a lot more aggressive looking for his shot and running the offense to take the burden off Harden, who is taking over 27 shots per game thus far. Paul is averaging 15.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists on 45.2 percent from the floor and 34.8 percent from three.
Much like Harden, Eric Gordon is scoring the ball well, however, he could also be more efficient. Across four games, he’s dropping 23.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game on 47.8 percent from the field and 34.8 percent from deep. While none of the Rockets’ top scorers’ shooting percentages particularly pop out at you, it is good news that they are pulling out victories without any of their top three scorers making even 35 percent of their threes.
P.J. Tucker, Austin Rivers & Clint Capela
Houston has their best chance at victory if they can continue to get solid contributions from P.J. Tucker and Austin Rivers, and Clint Capela can have more of an impact. Tucker is shooting 42.9 percent from deep and his energy on the boards and on defense against KD have been invaluable. Rivers has been a surprise off the bench, and his 10.7 points on 53.3 percent from three provide some much needed second unit production. Finally, the team needs Capela to show out a bit more. Although it’s not entirely his fault as the Warriors have defended the lob extraordinarily well this series, he is putting up just 9.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game thus far.
Keys for the Warriors
KD has been an unstoppable force since game three of the first round against the Clippers. Against Houston, he’s averaging 36.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists while shooting 46.0 percent from the field and 48.0 percent from three. He’s nearly impossible to guard, and while the Rockets can double team him when he’s the only star on the floor, when he’s making shots there isn’t much you can do but shrug and run back on offense.
Steph Curry & Klay Thompson
While Curry had a decent game four with 30 points, he still shot just 4/14 from three, and he hasn’t looked like himself all series. Through four games he’s putting up 21.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists, however, he’s shooting just 39.5 percent from the field and 26.1% from deep. If Curry can manage a performance similar to his back to back MVP seasons, this series will be over in six games, however, he’s been largely unable to get anything going thus far. Thompson has similarly been dreadful shooting the basketball, averaging 15.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists on 38.7 percent from the field and 30.8 percent from three. Although the Splash Bros. have looked more like the Trash Bros. this series, both are capable of going nuclear in a hurry, and a pivotal game five on their home court is the perfect scenario for that to happen.
Draymond Green & Andre Iguodala
While Green still can’t make a three to save his life, he’s been elite in every other aspect on the floor. He’s putting up 15.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game on a ridiculous 62.5 percent from the field. He makes his presence known on both ends of the floor, and without his excellent performance, the series wouldn’t be tied. Iguodala is performing similarly well on both ends of the floor, and much like Green, he benefits offensively from all the attention that Durant, Curry and Thompson get. Iguodala is averaging 13.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists while shooting 61.8 percent from the field. While he isn’t known for his abilities behind the arc, he’s made the Rockets pay for leaving him open by hitting 46.7 percent of his triples.
Ultimately, whoever wins game five will come down to which players show up who haven’t previously. Durant and Harden are likely to have massive games for their teams again. The difference maker for the Rockets will be more scoring from Paul and Capela, and more efficiency from Harden and Gordon. For the Warriors, they really just need to keep playing as they are and have one of Curry or Thompson have a signature performance. Admittedly, the win conditions for the Warriors seem far simpler, however, the Splash Bros. have not looked good all series, and the Rockets can get hot in a hurry.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference
Featured image courtesy of Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports
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