HOUSTON — James Harden and the Houston Rockets dug out of a 0-2 hole to even their Western Conference semifinals series with the Golden State Warriors after another game where they fought, scrapped and held off a late rally to get a victory.
Harden scored 38 points and the Rockets got a 112-108 win on Monday night to even the best-of seven series at 2-2.
“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.”
The Rockets were up by nine before the Golden State scored the next seven points, capped by a 3 from Stephen Curry, to get within 110-108 with 19 seconds left. Harden made one of two free throws with 11.5 seconds left. Kevin Durant missed a 3 after that. But the Warriors got the rebound and Curry also missed a 3-point attempt before Golden State was forced to foul Chris Paul.
“We got a couple of wide-open looks,” Durant said. “They just didn’t fall for us.”
Paul made one of two free throws with 2.9 seconds left to secure the victory.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr was asked about the physical play of the Rockets, who have several players who are much stockier than his squad.
“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.”
After losing the first two games of the series on the road, the Rockets head back to Golden State for Game 5 on Wednesday night with momentum on their side after their overtime win in Game 3 before Monday night’s victory.
The Warriors got 34 points from Kevin Durant, who had 46 in the Game 3 loss. Curry, who was criticized after shooting 7 for 23 in Game 3, got off to a good start, scoring 11 points in the first quarter. He cooled off after that, but finished with 30 points on 12 of 25 shooting.
“I didn’t think we got great shots for much of the night,” Kerr said. “We’ve got to be more poised and that has to be a focus.”
Eric Gordon added 20 points for Houston and P.J. Tucker had 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Despite two straight win, the Rockets still don’t think they’ve played their best.
“We’ve got to be better,” Tucker said. “We’ve got to be more aggressive. We’ve got to pick it up.”
Houston made 17 of its 50 3-point attempts, while the Warriors shot just 8 of 33 from downtown with Curry making just 4 of his 14 attempts.
The Rockets were up by nine after three and used an 8-2 run, with four points from Harden, to open the fourth and extend the lead to 101-86. Golden State used an 8-3 run, with six points from Draymond Green, to cut it to 104-94 midway through the quarter.
Houston had a 10-point lead with about four minutes left before a 5-2 run, with a 3 from Curry, got them within 108-101.
Green was shaken up when Harden inadvertently knocked him in the head on the follow through after he made a 3-pointer that put Houston up 71-59 with nine minutes left in the third quarter. Green fell to the court where he remained holding the left side of his head for a couple of minutes. The Warriors called a timeout and he collected himself and remained in the game. The lead grew to 77-60 before Golden State got going.
Warriors: Green had 15 points and 10 rebounds. … Golden State trailed by as many as 17 in the second half before its late surge.
Rockets: Tucker has scored at least 10 points in six of Houston’s nine playoff games this season and Monday was his third straight game with at least 10 rebounds. … Austin Rivers had 10 points.
ODDS & ENDS
Houston improved to 5-0 in home games this postseason. … This is the second time Golden State has lost consecutive playoff games since 2017. The last time came when Houston won Game 4 and 5 of the conference finals last season. … The Rockets have made 26 more 3-pointers than the Warriors in this series. … Houston out-rebounded Golden State for the second straight game and improved to 4-0 this postseason when winning on the boards. … Gordon, who had a playoff career-high 30 points in Game 3, scored 20 points or more in consecutive playoff games for the first time in his career.
THEY SAID IT
Curry on what people have been saying about him since he struggled in Game 3: “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.”
Game 6 will be in Houston on Friday night.