SAN FRANCISCO • The Golden State Warriors got their signature third-quarter run. They had a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, at home. Everything seemed in place for their record-extending 17th straight National Basketball Association (NBA) play-off home win.
But the Houston Rockets showed why they were the team to beat this season, fighting their way to an improbable 95-92 victory in Game 4 on Tuesday to level the Western Conference Finals series at 2-2.
A last-second foul gave the Warriors one final play with 0.5sec on the clock and a three-point deficit, but Stephen Curry was unable to connect on a corner three-pointer.
This was Golden State's first post-season loss in Oakland since the 2016 NBA Finals. It was also the Rockets' first away play-off victory over the Warriors in eight tries.
Powered by James Harden's 30 points and 27 from Chris Paul, the Rockets have snatched back their home-court advantage. Game 5 tonight is in Houston, which will host a potential Game 7, meaning the team control their own destiny.
"We know how hard it is to come back from 3-1," Paul said. "When it's winning time, you have got to suck it up. We knew we needed one here and we got it."
After three straight routs in this series, two of which were Golden State wins, a competitive Game 4 was a refreshing change. While the final score was close, the game was defined by huge runs, much like the rest of the series.
The Warriors wasted a 12-0 run to start the game and a 34-17 third quarter, as the Rockets beat them with a mix of intensity, execution and some attitude.
The visitors closed the game on a 25-10 run after trailing 82-70.
Golden State also got into some foul trouble, setting themselves back in a game in which the Warriors were already without the injured Andre Iguodala. They scored only 12 points in the final quarter.
"We just ran out of gas," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "They outplayed us in the fourth quarter and that was the difference. This game was just trench warfare, everybody grinding it out."
Curry led Golden State with 28 points on 10-of-26 shooting, while Kevin Durant added 27 points and 12 rebounds and Draymond Green had 11 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists.
"Now we've got to fight. This is now a real play-off type of experience," Curry said. "We're ready for it. The vibe in the locker room is really positive when it comes to what we need to correct to win Game 5."
Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said: "This is the highest level we've ever played defensively. There was some good defence in there to get us back. And they got a little tired in the fourth quarter because they felt us for three quarters."
P.J. Tucker had 16 rebounds and Clint Capella grabbed 13.
"It's as good as it's going to be right now," Paul said. "Mental toughness is just as important as physical toughness and we showed that."
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East Finals, Game 5: Singtel TV Ch110, 8.30am