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Game 4 Preview: Warriors vs Rockets

Basketball Insiders previews Game 4 between the Warriors and Rockets.

Ben Dowsett profile picture
Updated 11 months ago on
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#1 – Golden State Warriors

I forecasted some expected tweaks and adjustments from Steve Kerr, and the Coach of the Year runner-up didn’t disappoint in Game 3. The Warriors came out of the gate not only focused and red-hot, but with an altered game plan against a couple of the limited things the Rockets were doing successfully.

Firstly, Kerr removed Klay Thompson from primary defensive duties on James Harden, particularly in the first half while the game was still competitive. Harrison Barnes got the nod from the tip with Andre Iguodala filling in at times, and while Thompson did see spot periods on Houston’s superstar, they were much less frequent. And the results were excellent – a bit of extra length from Barnes and Iguodala flummoxed Harden, who’d been living off a diet of step-backs and floaters the Warriors were feeding him in the games at Oracle arena. The Dubs continued to flood the strong side and wall off the paint from Harden’s attacks, and tougher sledding with his bail-out jumpers led to his first bad game of the series.

Steph Curry continues to light the world on fire, dropping a casual 40 points with ease on Saturday night. We’ve now twice seen the Warriors absorb elite opponents’ best punches before bulldozing them once they ironed out a few kinks, and it’s hard to see the remainder of the postseason going any differently with how Curry is playing. A close-out in Game 4 would give the Warriors over a week to scout their Finals opponent, and expect them to smell blood in the water from a defeated Houston group.

#2 – Houston Rockets

The honeymoon was nice while it lasted, but this limited Houston roster never had a shot against a historically great Golden State team once the Dubs plugged some leaks. We saw firsthand Saturday night just what happens when Harden is taken out of the game as an offensive weapon – there just isn’t enough else there. Josh Smith played too large a role for the second straight game, but it’s almost tough to criticize; Houston truly has no one else to consistently generate offense.

Saturday’s result has to be particularly disheartening when factoring in the play of Dwight Howard, which was likely his best of the playoffs. He was aggressive and energetic on both ends from the start, the type of performance the Rockets desperately needed along with the other positive items they had working in the first couple games of the series, but was really the only Rocket to play at or near his best.

For Houston to even have a chance in Game 4, they’ll have to figure out how to free up Harden. Kevin McHale should consider running Harden through more off-ball action before his catches, perhaps drawing more switches onto a more preferable defender or at least creating a bit more breathing room for him. More pick-and-rolls with Dwight should be in the cards as well, especially if Harden can get a better matchup with his on-ball defender a bit more often.

But seeing the series extended seems a long shot. Houston gave it everything they had in Oakland and came up short, and are just no match for a Warriors team firing on all cylinders.

Who Wins Game 4?

It’s tough to see the Rockets summoning enough to keep this one going. The Warriors pounce on a wounded opponent and seal their Finals ticket.

 

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Ben Dowsett is a Deputy Editor and in-depth basketball analyst based in Salt Lake City. He covers the Jazz on a credentialed basis for Basketball Insiders, and has previously appeared in the Sports Illustrated and TrueHoop Networks. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.

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