HOUSTON — The long, arduous wait for the Warriors isn't over yet.
But after 40 years without an NBA Finals appearance, what's two more days?
The Houston Rockets delayed the inevitable on Monday night, when the Warriors took the Memorial Day holiday a bit too literally in a 125-112 setback in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.
The Warriors can close the best-of-seven series at Oracle Arena on Wednesday night.
“We don't want to come back to Houston,” assured Klay Thompson, who had a team-high 24 points. “We want to go the Finals for the first time in 40 years or whatever. It's not going to be easy. The Rockets are here for a reason.”
In response to a 110-85 smackdown in Game 3, after which their manhood was questioned, the Rockets went ballistic in a 45-point first period and were threatened only briefly in the fourth quarter.
Forty-five also was operative for Rockets top scorer James Harden, who bounced back with that number of points to help stave off elimination. He also had nine rebounds, five assists and a pair of blocked shots.
Draymond Green had 21 points, 15 rebounds and five blocked shots for the Warriors, who lost to the Rockets for the first time this season.
“Right now, our mindset is one game at a time,” said Harden, who blew off the media after practice one day earlier. “We've got to play the same way.”
The best news for the Warriors on this night: They survived a catastrophic scare in the second period, when Stephen Curry suffered a head contusion in a nasty fall near the basket.
Curry was in position to contest a Trevor Ariza shot, but when the Rocket paused momentarily, he flipped head over heels. The league's Most Valuable Player landed heavily on the back of his neck and upper back.
After a six-minute delay, a groggy Curry finally was able to get to his feet to polite applause before he was assisted off the court. He clutched the right side of his head on his way to the locker room.
“It was all minor stuff compared to how it looked,” said Curry, who still managed to score 23 points in only 31 minutes. “I'll get some good rest tonight and be ready to go [on Wednesday].”
In compliance with league protocol, team medical personnel examined Curry for a concussion and found no symptoms. He returned to the game with 5:58 left in the third period and threw up an airball on his next shot attempt.
“We had got it within 10 at the half, and Steph was walking around the locker room,” coach Steve Kerr said. “Everybody was checking on him and he seemed fine. The emotions were good. We thought we had a good chance to win the game.”
While the Warriors misfired on their first five field goal attempts, the home team reeled off the first 12 points in the game.
Veteran Josh Smith set the tone with 13 points of his 20 points in the first seven minutes, when the Rockets bolted to a 27-13 advantage.
It was difficult to tell which was a bigger surprise — that the Rockets drained 17 of 22 field goal tries in the first quarter or that no defender was closer than Waco on many of them.
The teams combined for a 37 3-pointers, an NBA postseason record.
“I didn't want to roll over,” Smith said. “No one wants to get swept.”
The Rockets closed the first quarter with a 45-22 lead, and if not for Curry, the margin wouldn't have been that close. He drained three 3-balls and accounted for half his team's points.
“Oh, I'll be fine, yeah,” Curry promised. “They did all the tests. Nothing got worse, and I was able to go out and play 15 or so minutes in the second half. That's promising for Wednesday.”