On a court filled with stars, none were bigger than James Harden on Monday.
Behind a second straight massive performance from the reigning league MVP, the Houston Rockets tied their Western Conference semifinals matchup with a 112-108 victory over the Golden State Warriors in a chippy Game 4.
The beginning of the game belonged to Stephen Curry, who threatened to break out after a poor Game 3 performance with 11 points in the first quarter to lead the Warriors to a 28-25 lead.
But Harden returned from another early trip to the locker room to lead the Rockets to take control of the game.
Harden scored 13 in the second and finished with 38 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists as he and the Rockets dominated the 3-point line to keep Golden State from closing the gap.
Houston threatened to run away with the game, taking a 17-point second-half lead. But the Warriors made an 11-0 run in the third quarter fueled by Kevin Durant and closed the gap with a 7-0 run in the game’s final minutes to give themselves a chance to play for overtime.
Golden State had two chances to tie the game in the final seconds trailing 111-108, but open 3-point looks from Durant and Curry both missed. The final seconds were a microcosm of the game, as the Warriors once again struggled to shoot from deep in an 8-of-33 (24.2 percent) performance from behind the arc.
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Houston hit more than twice as many from distance, connecting on 17-of-50 (34.5 percent) 3-point attempts.
“Our motto was keep fighting,” Harden told TNT after the game. “Like I keep saying, we know how tough they are. We’ve got to keep fighting on both ends of the floor, stay in attack mode, be aggressive.”
Durant countered Harden with another big game of his own, scoring 34 points to go with 7 rebounds and 5 assists.
Curry went cold after his hot opening quarter before finding his stroke again late, tallying 30 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds. After starting 2-of-10 from 3-point distance, he finished 4-of-14 — not vintage Steph, but a marked improvement from Saturday’s 7-of-23 performance from the field.
After digging an 0-2 hole, Houston has clawed its way back into the series and now faces a chance to steal a road win to set up a potential close-out Game 6 at home. After last season’s Game 7 loss at home in the Western Conference finals, it’s an opportunity the Rockets surely relish.
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