After watching both his and teammate Stephen Curry’s potential game-tying 3-point attempts clank off of the rim with 2.9 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Kevin Durant stared at the ground as he put his hands on his knees while bending over at the waist.
Durant knew that the Warriors had just left a a trio of points out on the court thanks inability to make a shot when they needed it most.
But those two shots weren’t the reason why the Warriors dropped Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals Monday night. Rather, it was a slew of other botched opportunities that allowed the Houston Rockets to even the series 2-2 with a 112-108 win at the Toyota Center.
“I thought we played plenty hard enough but I think force has to be accompanied by poise,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “We’ve got to be better.”
Coming off of an overtime heartbreaker in Game 3, the Warriors looked to build on the momentum that they built after surging back from a 13-point hole in the third quarter on Saturday night.
On of the biggest pieces that was missing from that game — as well as for the majority of the series — was Curry, who’d suffered through foul troubles and a dislocated left middle finger in three games.
Monday, Curry came out of the gates looking to find his rhythm offensively, and did so by attacking the basket.
Rolling home three layups for the Warriors in the first six minutes of play, Curry scored 11 points in the first quarter, but his offensive prowess isn’t limited to just scoring himself. In fact, of the 12 shots Golden State made in the first quarter, Curry either scored or assisted on nine of them.
Besides Curry, however, the rest of the Warriors starting five was not able to truly back up their point guard’s newly-rediscovered success.
The rest of the team’s lack of scoring wasn’t the product of poor shots either, though, as Golden State found themselves with three missed layups within the first five minutes of the game.
“I thought we were in a rush offensively,” Kerr said. “I just thought we were in a rush to create pace out there.”
This problem even carried into the fourth quarter when Warriors forward Draymond Green botched a right-handed layup with 53 seconds to play as Golden State trailed 105-110 with a chance to make it a three-point game.
Before even having a chance to close the gap to three, the Warriors had to dig themselves out of a 17-point hole in the second half. The Rockets were able to build this advantage by way of capitalizing on Golden State’s poor rebounding.
In Game 3, the Warriors were out-rebounded by 20 (55-35) and in Game 4, they were beat on the glass once again.
While they did improve by only allowing the Rockets to secure seven more boards than them, Golden State gave up 13 offensive rebounds, which allowed Houston to score 14 second-chance points.
“They shoot long 3-pointers and those rebounds are long, too,” Durant said. “Those are back-breaker plays like the ones that bounce over our heads to a guy that’s just sitting in the corner … We need everyone to come in from the wings to come in a grab some of these rebound.”
Rockets forward P.J. Tucker was one of the main reasons for Golden State’s headaches on the glass. Half of Tucker’s 10 total rebounds came on the offensive end of the floor.
Despite their shortcomings in taking advantage of the Rockets’ missed shots, the Warriors were able to climb back into the game. Closing the gap from 17 to just three thanks to a 12-5 run in the final four minutes of the game, the Warriors gave themselves one final chance to potentially tie things down 111-108.
After a missed free throw from Rockets guard James Harden, Golden State had the ball with 11.5 seconds to play.
Coming off of a picture perfect screen from Green, Durant was left wide open at the top of the arc from 27 feet out. Stepping into the high-arching attempt, Durant’s bounced off of the rim.
Able to corral his own rebound, Durant shovelled the ball to Curry, but his shot, too, curled off of the rim. This time, the rebound fell to Rockets guard Chris Paul, who was fouled and hit a game-clinching free throw.
“We both would have loved to make both of those shots,” said Durant, who scored a team-high 34 points. “I think we got free at the end of the game. Down three, we was able to get a couple of wide-open look. They just didn’t fall for us.”
Golden State went 8-of-33 from beyond the 3-point arc, with Curry — who scored 30 points — going 4-of-14, and Klay Thompson going 1-of-6.
While the Warriors walked off of the court with their second loss in a row, they were able to find comfort in the fact that many of their mistakes that came in the form of missed opportunities are something that can be rectified moving onto Game 5.
“They’re going whatever it takes to win and we’re kind of just rolling in like, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll box,’ and they’re slamming us,” said Green, who had 10 rebounds, five assists and 15 points. “We got to just change our mindset and if we change our mindset we’ll be just fine.”