Despite some early hiccups and, um, premature pronouncements of doom, the Rockets held a 53-46 lead going into halftime in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Warriors. For the most optimistic of Rockets fans, that advantage might’ve been enough to nervously hope for an even series. Everyone else was left to anticipate, or be resigned to, the inevitable second-half comeback from the Warriors. But that didn’t happen tonight, as the Rockets did just enough to pull out their first ever playoff win on the road against the Dubs, 95-92.
The game did stick to the script of a rally, as Golden State outscored Houston 34-17 in the third quarter. Those numbers don’t fully explain the basketball nirvana that was watching Steph Curry heat up for the second game in a row, scoring 17 points in the third by himself. With a 10-point lead at the end of three, this Warriors performance looked really familiar.
But all credit to Houston, as they didn’t disappear in the fourth, which the Warriors clearly expected them to. Chris Paul’s final quarter was as wildly perfect as Steph Curry’s third, with every shot and every pass falling exactly where it needed to for the Rockets’ point guard, including this one to reclaim the lead.
The Warriors, meanwhile, turned into a pile of bricks as soon as the buzzer sounded to start the last 12 minutes.
But that was because the Rockets made it tough for them. Four times in the final minute-in-a-half, the Warriors had the ball down by three points or fewer, and in those possessions they scored just one point, on a Draymond Green free throw. The Rockets deserved this win, fighting through adversity to take home court back from Golden State, with a chance to maintain it in Game 5 on Thursday. Maybe it was unwise to underestimate the best team in the West.