Houston made a huge statement in game four. On the road; down 12-0 to start the game.
It was a game of momentum swings, and when the final buzzer sounded the Rockets were in control of the pendulum. James Harden gave a Jekyll and Hyde performance. He had a stellar second quarter, singlehandedly willing his team to a seven point lead at the break. He played his game, lulling opposing defenders, only to break down the lane. He put a stamp on the game with his epic in your face dunk on Draymond Green. Normally I don’t hype hammer dunks, but this was an exception. Green was going for the block and put his body and arms out there. Harden was having none of it. He slammed it home. The crowd was quieted. The Rockets bench was losing their collective mind.
As per usual, the third quarter was all GSW. They came out with a fury and played well all the way through the quarter. Steph was shimmying, and KD was finding his range. And still it did no good. Houston dominated the fourth – and referencing back to my initial comments on Harden (he disappeared in the fourth, similarly to his transparent performance last year against the Spurs). Did it matter? Not this time. The Houston Rockets have said LOUDLY that they put this team together for one reason: defeating the Warriors. On the road in Oracle, a building where the Warriors had won 16 straight home playoff games, the revamped Rockets were ready for the challenge. They delivered a historic defensive outpouring. They hawked the ball and swarmed shooters. KD and Steph were uncomfortable and it showed. Not only did each fall flat, the team as a whole was crunched into 12 points total! Unheard for this Warriors team. And as Harden struggled, Chris Paul came through in the clutch. He said in the huddle, We gotta keep fighting, just keep fighting. His team listened and heeded his words. An enormous victory on the road, shifting home court back to Houston. The Rockets proved they belong, that they are that team that just might undo the juggernaut Golden State Warriors. They did it with defense. As a fan of basketball I was impressed (a little nauseous – but impressed).
Now, with only a day off for travel, the teams head back to Houston for a best of three series that may very well go down to the wire. One can hope the Warriors learned a valuable lesson. Game three: Bring it on.