Harden slashes, Curry crashes, Rockets roll

Harden slashes, Curry crashes, Rockets roll
Warriors guard Stephen Curry falls over Rockets forward Trevor Ariza in the second quarter. Curry left the game after hitting his head on this fall, but returned in the second half. (Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)

In case you didn't know who finished second in the most-valuable-player vote, James Harden wanted to inform you.

He was the best player Monday, not Stephen Curry, and the Houston Rockets shrugged off possible elimination with a 128-115 victory over Golden State in Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference finals.


Harden had 45 points and the Rockets took a very small step toward becoming the NBA's first team to win a playoff series after losing the first three games.

At the very least, it put on hold a championship showdown between league MVP Curry and Cleveland's LeBron James. The Cavaliers hold a 3-0 lead over Atlanta in the East finals and can end the series Tuesday in Cleveland.

Plenty of work lies ahead for the Rockets, while the Warriors are just happy to return home healthy.

Championship hopes almost faded before their eyes with 5:52 left in the second quarter. Curry flew into the air after Trevor Ariza's pump fake and landed off-balance on Ariza's shoulders, tumbling to the court on his back and hitting his head. He stayed down for almost three minutes before sitting up. He then walked slowly to the locker room with help from a Warriors doctor.

Golden State called the injury a head contusion and said Curry passed all concussion tests before returning midway through the third quarter. Game 5 is Wednesday at Golden State.

“I felt like I was in the air for a long time,” Curry said. “It's a bad feeling. . . . You're in the air, got no control over yourself. It could have been a lot worse.”

Curry's first shot upon returning was an air ball. His second shot was blocked by Terrence Jones. The Rockets led by 12 when he returned and soon were up 22.

The Warriors worked it down to six in the fourth quarter, but thanks to Harden, the Toyota Center crowd left in a much happier mood than after Game 3, which the Rockets lost by 35.

The first quarter was a stunning turnaround from Saturday, the Rockets making eight of nine three-point shots and sticking the Warriors with a 45-22 deficit.

Warriors guard Klay Thompson called it “ridiculous.”

“We have to come out Wednesday and be ready from the start,” he said.

Harden made seven of 11 three-point attempts and added nine rebounds, five assists, two blocked shots and two steals, officially rebounding from a lousy Game 3 in which he missed 13 of 16 shots.

Harden was “extremely unhappy” after that game, Rockets Coach Kevin McHale said.

“It doesn't do any good to take it out on the trainer and your teammates and your coach. You take it out on the other team, and he did it,” McHale said.


Two hours before tipoff, Golden State Coach Steve Kerr noted how fortunate the Warriors had been this season, lucky to be relatively injury-free. Their top seven players logged at least 77 regular-season games, except for Andrew Bogut (67).

Their season almost came crashing down in the second quarter.

“I saw [Curry] kind of flip over,” Kerr said. “We were all over there out of concern and then fortunately he was up.”

Thompson had 24 points and Curry had 23, making only seven of 18 shots.

A severe-weather warning went into effect before the game ended, and fans were asked by the Rockets' public-address announcer to stay in their seats afterward until a tornado warning ended.

A lot of people started leaving, though, perhaps emboldened by what happened on the court. A good night for the Rockets, undoubtedly. Three more like it would be needed to make history.

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan