Way Out West- Conference Finals 5.23.18

Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors

Series Tied: 2-2

Get your popcorn ready.

Tuesday’s game four was, at long last, the game we’ve expected from this series. Golden State and Houston trading buckets and going on huge runs, with the Rockets buckling down to escape certain doom by recapturing home court advantage. It’s going to be a three game series to decide who heads to the finals. And it’s going to be a good one.

The game started out as many predicted, with Golden State marching to an early advantage, then the Rockets coming back in the second quarter to take a halftime lead. The Warriors had their customary outburst in the third quarter, outscoring Houston 34-17 in the frame. Many teams would have broken in that moment, but the Rockets built their team for this specific series, and they answered the bell. Harden and company won the final quarter 25-12, and narrowly survived a decent look by Steph Curry as time expired that would have sent the game into overtime.

Houston was able to get back into game four, in part, thanks to the absence of the Warriors top perimeter defender, Andre Igoudala. The gritty role player, you may remember, was named Finals MVP a few years ago for giving LeBron James absolute fits every time he touched the ball. He’ll be questionable for tonight’s game five in Houston, and if he can’t provide some minutes, you might see the Warriors looking thinner in a meaningful game than they’ve looked since Draymond Green got suspended from game five of the Finals two years ago. Put simply, the Warriors got sloppy, especially late, and they got away from the offense that won them last year’s title. An assist to turnover ratio of fourteen to sixteen is not how the Warriors win games. They averaged over twenty-six assist per game in the regular season, and the ratio is usually two to one. Klay Thompson struggled with some injury issues in game four as well, limiting his effectiveness, but he’s expected to play tonight.

I expect to see a firefight in tonight’s game five. Both teams will consider it a must-win. Harden and Chris Paul will need to duplicate their effort from Tuesday night, when both scored over twenty-five points. Per ESPN, the Rockets are 8-0 when both Paul and Harden hit that milestone. They’ll also need continued help from Eric Gordon, and some better efficiency from beyond the arc. Harden went 3-12 from long distance, while Gordon was a woeful 1-8. As for the Warriors, I expect that we’ll see the Klay Thompson back in the groove, and a big game from Draymond Green. If Igoudala can’t go, I expect we’ll see a bit more of Shaun Livingston, the savvy vet that has provided some spark off the bench and more than a few catalyst moments, like juking Harden out of his shoes and then finishing strong in game three to send Oracle Arena into a frenzy.

With backs to the wall, which team has the advantage? Until they’re eliminated, you don’t bet against the reigning champs.

Image source: ESPN

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