The Houston Rockets looked to be in trouble Tuesday against the Golden State Warriors, as they were down 2-1 in the series and trailed 28-19 after the first quarter and 80-70 after three quarters. But they battled back in the fourth quarter, outscoring Golden State 25-12 to emerge from Oracle Arena with a 95-92 win that evened the series. And what was maybe most remarkable about this game was how it was the first in either NBA conference final to be in question down the stretch:
This is the first game in either conference final this season that has been within one possession at any point in the 4th quarter
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 23, 2018
This feels like one that the Warriors could have won with just a few more breaks. They were up 82-70 early in the fourth quarter, but the Rockets stormed back with a 19-4 run to take an 89-86 lead. And from there, there was a lot of sloppy basketball down the stretch on both sides, but Golden State just couldn’t convert on their opportunities. Such as this one on what looked like their final possession, where they forced James Harden into a long three that missed and got the ball back down 94-92 with 13 seconds left, but could only generate a heavily-defended Klay Thompson two-point shot for the tie that missed:
Somehow, Golden State still wasn’t done after that, though. A foul was called on the rebound that sent Houston’s Chris Paul to the line, where he made one of two shots. And as Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr had smartly conserved a timeout, that let Golden State advance the ball past midcourt and set up for a potentially game-tying three to send this one to overtime. They even got Steph Curry a pretty good look, but his shot hit the rim:
And that meant the Rockets came out of Oracle with a 95-92 win, and tied the series up at 2-2. They did so thanks to a team performance, with Harden and Paul contributing 30 and 27 points respectively and P.J. Tucker and Clint Capela adding 16 and 13 rebounds respectively. But they were also helped by some of the late-game struggles from Golden State. We’ll see if the Warriors can recover from that when the series resumes Thursday in Houston.