Rockets Lock-up Key Playoff Tie-Breaker By Downing the Warriors Late, 94-88

OMER WANT REBOUND!! OMER SMASH!! - USA TODAY Sports

Though frustrating during big spurts - Harden and Lin were able to close out the game at the line after Chandler Parson's kept us from falling behind early. 4th quarter aggression was the name of the game, and the Rockets were able to grind out a very clutch victory on the road.

Two key factors propelled the Rockets to victory tonight in the 4th quarter:

1. Defense/Rebounding

Asik was an absolute animal, gobbling up rebounds as if his life depended on it. He helped on defense, he rotated correctly, he boxed out his man, and he sucked up glass. While Asik's play had a lot to do with it, the Rockets held the entire Warriors squad scoreless for the first half of the final period. Curry hit their first field goal with 6:13 left to go. It may not have looked pretty in all cases, but I thought we got the job done here against a phenomenal offensive squad.

2. Forcing foul shots late

From the 3:27 mark on, the Houston Rockets shot 10 free throws. Harden and Lin were both being aggressive penetrating and drawing contact and not allowing the referees to swallow their whistles. While there were 3 or 4 that got away, those foul shots were crucial. They not only added to our point total with high percentage shots, but they also prevented this GSW offense from running up and down the court exploiting mismatches. We were able to keep our men in front of us on defense and we willed out way to victory at the line.

Overall, a great win that puts us squarely 1 game behind golden state, with the always crucial tie-breaker in our corner, as we have defeated them in 3 contests this year. Although Utah also lost today, the Lakers were somehow able to pull off a last second victory against another sub-par team. Our position is solidly #7, and looking good headed into a back-to-back against a weak and banged up Suns squad.

TDS breaks down each half for your reading pleasure.

First Half

After the Oracle center was able to finally adjust their eyes to the eye-sores the Warriors call jerseys, the Rocket's offense began operating fairly poorly as the ball got sticky and our offensive movement didn't really get the ball from one side of the floor to the other. Fortunately, we were unconscious from three point range early. We sank 5 of 6 from beyond the arc early on.

It really kept us in it early because we just could not stop the combination of Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry, and David Lee. Hot knives through butter immediately out of the gate. Golden State's ‘Big 3' shot 12 for 16 (75%) in the first quarter. Klay Thompson was draining 3 pointers, Curry was carving us up inside and hitting pretty shots with very nice touch.

Donatas picked up two fouls early, forcing us to sub in T-Rob earlier than we want to. This is what allowed David Lee the freedom of movement in the block he needed to go to work. Another factor was that Asik was simply not making his presence felt down low, totaling 1 rebound in the 9 minutes he was in the game in the first quarter.

The first quarter closed out on an embarrassing note as GSW went on a 14-4 run to close it out, including a coast-to-coast transition layup by Klay just before the buzzer immediately following an awful display of ‘hero ball' on our last possession of the quarter. Bev was wide open in the corner!!

That was, however, one of the few times Harden wasn't looking to make his teammates better totaling 5 assists in the opening period of play (totaling 11 on the night). But honestly, that just made his ball-hogging all the more noticeable in those final seconds.

Story of the first quarter --

We shoot 33% from the field, 7 for 21. They shoot 57% on 12 of 21 shooting.

Sometimes it's just that simple

At the beginning of the second quarter the Warriors did not slow down, extending their lead as the GSW bench got a couple buckets early. We get broken out of the slump by a circus shot from Delfino off the glass for the and 1.

Curry was still dissecting offense on penetration moves and dynamic scoring close to the bucket. By comparison, James Harden had yet to hit a field goal by halfway through the quarter (0 for 5). Parson's buckets also stopped falling for a bit leaving long rebounds to start the break for GSW.

Near the end of the second quarter, H-Town starts to make an impressive run to close out the quarter. Asik was a force in the paint, clearing out space for rebounds and rotating to force sub-optimal shots out of the Warriors offense. He ended with with 9 first half rebounds as we cut a 13 point lead down to two with 3:10 left in the half.

The half ended quite poorly for the Warriors. They allowed Chandler Parsons to hit a transition and get a nice little tip in for a couple second chance points. Then, with 6 seconds left, GSW fouls Delfino on a rebound 94 feet from the rim in the bonus, gifting us 2 free throws.

We go into the break leading by 2.

50-48

Second Half

In the Third, Asik came out going after it - grabbing a couple rebounds right after the 3 quarter started quarter started. Although only a factor offensively when delivered a solid pass, it's hard to overstate the impact he had on the floor.

Even then, Curry was still unconscious, hitting shots and getting to the free throw line by way of some silly defense by the Rockets perimeter defenders. He was dicing us up inside and finding shooters.

Lin, however, can out playing very aggressively early on - driving and pushing the ball into the teeth of the defense, forcing fouls, and getting to the line. He also had an impressive no look dish to Asik right under the basket.

Despite these positives, our star player was not the same Harden we knew earlier in the season. He shot 2 for 12 from the floor going into the final period of the game. He was a pest on defense occasionally, getting in passing lanes and forcing turnovers, but his help on rotations was still noticeably poor

One nice thing I'd like to point out here at the end of the third. Patrick Beverley gets subbed in with 3:32 left in the third and finally starts putting a body on Curry. Patrick really started to bother him on his drives; he was cutting off penetration and forcing curry to change the angles of his entry into the defense and that is stopping is points in the bucket. Bev was one of the keys to shutting down a red hot Curry as he held him scoreless until the end of the period.

Golden State leads by 3 headed into the 4th. 76-73.

Beverley comes out a little too aggressive, picking up a few quick fouls (which hurt us later, GSW got into the bonus with about 6 mins left in the quarter. I, for one, was sweating at that point). Fortunately the Warriors could also not find a way to high a field goal until as much time ran off the clock so the bonus didn't hurt us because we were getting after it defensively and grabbing boards.

The end of the game featured the rookie Harrison Barnes taking a contested mid-range jumper with under a minute left. Leading to an Asik board (his 17th of the night) and a rather ugly ending sequence to close out the game.

Harden basically coughs up the ball to a Warrior after draining the clock under 24 seconds. The Warriors grab it and try to push the ball on an outlet pass. Carlos Delfino dives into the passing lane to force a turnover to complete a somewhat anti-climactic ending to a key game.

Bottom line:

When was the last time this season you saw the Rockets score less than 100 points? When was the last time this season that we stopped an offensive team as good as the Warriors from crossing the 90 point threshold?

Asik dominated defensively, Chandler Parsons went bonkers again (26pts, 3 boards, 3 assists), Harden got teammates involved when his shot wasn't falling, and Lin was aggressive probing the paint.

Not the ideal game by any means, but we'll take it on the road against a Western Conference playoff contender any day of the week.

Check out the conversation at Golden State Of Mind

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