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Rockets and Warriors Tied at 2 in Western Conference Finals

2018 NBA Western Conference Finals

Western Conference Finals Goes Back to Houston

The Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets will square off in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday  at Toyota Center. Tipoff is scheduled for a few minutes after 9 pm EST on TNT.

Oddsmakers opened the Rockets as -1-point favorites versus the Warriors, while the game’s total opened at 223.5. Golden State is now a 1.5 point favorite. The total is down to 218.5.

Game Four was a classic. Houston was Staring at a 10-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter. Losing puts them in a 3-1 series hol. The Rockets came alive and reestablished homecourt advantage in the Western Conference finals.

Houston salvaged its championship notions with great coaching and execution. They have methodically invited the Warriors to play their brand of isolation basketball. It has influenced Golden State for long enough stretches to temporarily secure a style of play that benefits Houston.

Warriors Have to Control the Tempo

In Game Four the Warriors claimed their largest lead of the night at 82-70. Stephen Curry assisted on a Shaun Livingston dunk at the 10:45 mark. That produced the 14th and final assist of the night for Golden State. The Warriors only scored 12 points in the quarter.

The Warriors led the NBA in assist percentage at 68.5% during the regular season. The Rockets rely on the isolation brilliance of James Harden and Chris Paul. Golden State features two exceptional one-on-one talents in Kevin Durant and Curry, but isolation basketball isn’t their identity as a team.

The Warriors’ 14 assists in Game 4 was a series low. Their 48.2 assist rate in the series is worse than the Rockets’ assist percentage of 49.3. It is a surprising development. The 4th period on Tuesday revealed Golden State at its most unrecognizable.

Golden State held Houston to 39 percent shooting in Game 4. This is overshadowed by having surrendered 34 points in the second quarter and 25 in the fourth.

The Warriors shot 39.3 percent from the floor in the loss. All-Star shooting guard Klay Thompson was held to 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting. He is averaging only 10.3 points over the last three games after going off for 28 in Game 1.

Kevin Durant recorded his first double-double of the series with 27 points and 12 rebounds on Tuesday.

Rockets Must Play Defense

The Rockets have a clear understanding of their immediate mission. Their season-long defensive might, and fight, has served them well during critical spans against the Warriors. Houston has been scrambling and contesting shots and passes at a fevered pitch.

That level of committment and perserverance wasn’t attached to the Rockets’ identity.  Nor was it aligned to Harden individually. In Game 4 the Rockets finally won at Oracle Arena and snapped the Warriors’ 16-game home postseason winning streak. Houston had fallen to the Warriors in five games in consecutive postseasons.

The Rockets have finally shrugged one monkey off their backs. Another one awaits. They have to win and take control of the series. Houston needs two wins over the next three games to knock the Warriors off their throne.

The Warriors three-year reign as Western Conference champs could be in jeapordy with the Rockets playing two of the last three at home.

Eric Gordon is 3-of-16 from 3-point range over the last two games.

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Next up:
Golden State home to Houston Saturday, May 26

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