The Golden State Warriors are moving on without Stephen Curry — at least for the time being — as they try to close out their first-round series with the Houston Rockets. With Game 5 set for Tuesday night at Oracle Arena, the defending champs are poised to advance to the semifinals.
Houston had a glimmer of hope to get back in the series in Game 4. Tied at halftime and trailing the Warriors 2-1 in the series, the Rockets struggled to score in the second half, even with Curry nursing his knee injury in the locker room. Golden State outscored Houston 65-38 in the final 24 minutes, casting doubt as to whether the Rockets can play with renewed inspiration facing elimination.
"When the moment called for us to raise our intensity level, we dropped our guard," Rockets interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said after Sunday’s loss. "When their guy went down, you could see the intent in their guys' eyes. The moment we needed to match their intensity, we didn't do it."
The Warriors have been dominant this postseason with Curry on the floor, outscoring the Rockets by 29.5 points per 100 possessions. But despite stealing Game 3 on a game-winning shot by James Harden in the closing seconds, the Rockets have still been outscored by 12 points per 100 possessions when Curry has been on the bench.
Klay Thompson and Draymond Green stepped up in Game 4 when Curry went down, and that’s likely to continue when the team returns home. Golden State went 39-2 at home in the regular season, and they outscored Houston by 35 total points in the first two games of the series. Houston is a combined seven games under .500 on the road in the regular season and the playoffs.
How the Rockets perform in the paint might be crucial to Wednesday's outcome. In the first half of Game 4, the Rockets kept the came close by scoring 30 points in the key, but struggled in the second half.
"We have an advantage there. We should take advantage of it," said Bickerstaff.
Las Vegas oddsmakers have made the Warriors 9.5-point favorites, via vegasinsider.com. The over/under is 211.5, and Golden State is averaging 113.3 points in their wins this series.
Prediction: Golden State over Houston, 106-90