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Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors Game 4 preview

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NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

After winning Game 3 to prevent a possibly embarrassing sweep, the Houston Rockets can start to get a little greedy.

The smart money is still on the Golden State Warriors to win this series, but for Houston to have any chance, they have to win their home games. The first of those (potential) three steps was accomplished on Saturday, but required overtime against a Warriors team that wasn’t fully plugged into the contest. Still, Houston showed much more determination than the champs, which was a characteristic that was wholly absent in Game 2.

If we look at the Four Factors, Houston won three of them. Houston outshot the Warriors (48% to 44%, with the 3-point shooting equal), grabbed more rebounds (67 to 48), and only shot three fewer free throws than the Warriors (which can be attributed to Austin Rivers fouling Kevin Durant on a late 3-point attempt). The only area Houston solidly lost was the turnover battle, where their 16 turnovers led to 25 Warriors points.

With the way Houston plays and the quality of Golden State’s defense, the Rockets are unlikely to win many turnover battles in this series. They won Game 1, but were outshot and outrebounded in Game 1. In Game 2, the Warriors adjusted and Houston committed 18 turnovers. Again, you need things that aren’t controllable to go your way against this team and you have to win the battle of things you can control.

After games, I like to look at how fans of both teams react. Usually, both sides try to push their narratives and talk themselves into how one game was either a fluke (if they lost) or indicative of the rest of the series (if they won).

For example, if you’re a Warriors fan you look at Game 3 and say, “Eric Gordon went off, and Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were terrible. And there’s no way Austin Rivers and Iman Shumpert shoot that well again. Everything went Houston’s way and that won’t continue.”

Meanwhile, as a Rockets fan, you look at Game 3 and, “Draymond Green had a triple double and the Rockets still won. Green and Andre Iguodala shot 4-6 from deep when both shot well below league average during the regular season. Chris Paul still hasn’t made his presence felt in this series. James Harden’s vision still wasn’t 100% and he cooked. P.J. Tucker got a few cheap fouls that helped Durant go off in the second half. And Mike D’Antoni has learned that he can’t play Gerald Green in this series.”

I think both teams have reasons to be optimistic heading into tonight’s game, but I think Golden State played well below their ceiling in Game 3. The Rockets still have another gear too, but can they show it in what is easily the biggest game of the season for both teams?

Tip-off is at 8:30pm CT on TNT