I wanted to do a three takeaways story but I found it hard to get past my only takeaway. Jekyll and OH MY GOD HYDE (Ethan may not like the caps, but this game deserves a story to be written in all caps so he better give me that at least) (Ed. note: grumble grumble fine). The Rockets fell hard to the Warriors 121-94.
The score does not tell the whole story. When looking at the score, you see a team that was blown out, but that was not exactly the case.
For at least 24 minutes the Rockets played maybe their best basketball of the year (aside from the Christmas classic against the Spurs, that was also a whole game of great and gritty play).
Coming on to the court in the final half, the Rockets would get a gift, Stephen Curry who took an awkward fall slipping on a wet spot would end up being ruled out for the remainder of the game. They also would learn that Patrick Beverley would be out for the rest of the game after suffering a leg strain in the second quarter.
They were without Beverley, but they weren't facing Curry, so this turned from a tough game into a much easier game, right? Nope. In the third quarter, the Warriors outscored the Rockets 41-20 and that was pretty much all she wrote.
It was a tied game at the half, 56-all. The Rockets just could not get anything to work. Everything they did right early on, they went away from or did a complete 180, allowing the Warriors to destroy them in every facet of the game. A potential win went from something plausible and doable to trying to climb Mount Everest barefoot.
"When the moment called for us to raise our intensity level we dropped our guard," J.B. Bickerstaff said. "You can see the difference in the way they played in that third quarter. How they scrapped, how they got every loose ball, you could see the intent in their guys' eyes. They knew one of their guys were down and they were going to raise their level of play. In the moment when we need to have matched that intensity, we didn't do it."
In the first half, the Rockets were playing fast and they were playing smart. They had movement and were getting good shots, the James Harden-Dwight Howard connection lead to a bunch of lobs. Michael Beasley came in and basically went insane, scoring 13 points in about 12 minutes. The closeouts on defense were hard and quick, they hit the glass and out-rebounded the Warriors by double digits.
Everything that had worked early started to fail. The Rockets had careless turnovers, the easy and right pass turned into trying to make the home run play. They stopped moving the ball, they were OK with taking contested jumpers rather than moving the ball, cutting to the rim or finding the right shot. They settled.
The rebounding that had been good in game three and in the first half was lost. Early, everyone was hitting the glass when a shot went up, two or three Rockets were underneath the rim fighting and scrapping for the ball. When the second half started, a flip was switched and that fight, that hunger to go after the boards hard, died.
"We played so well last game and the first half of this game," James Harden said. "That third quarter was just a stinger for us."
Why, why, why, do they flip it on and off, how can they be amazingly hot and be ice cold moments later? Not even the Rockets have an answer for that one.
"Same thing happened in game three, when we stepped out after the halftime we stopped playing, we stopped moving the ball," Donatas Motiejunas said.
The Rockets had a prime chance to tie the series up and really start putting doubts into the Warriors minds. With Curry's status up in the air for game five, you could have really shaken the champions but instead, you continued to give them confidence that they don't need Curry to win.