HOUSTON - James Harden and the Houston Rockets dug out of a 0-2 hole to even their Western Conference semifinals series with the Golden State Warriors after another game where they fought, scrapped and held off a late rally to get a victory.
Harden scored 38 points and the Rockets got a 112-108 win on Monday night to even the best-of seven series at 2-2.
“When you’re dealing with these guys, if you let Klay (Thompson) and Steph (Curry) run around and shoot 3s you don’t have no chance,” Harden said. “The only chance we have is to be into their bodies and make every shot that they take contested.”
The Rockets were up by nine before the Golden State scored the next seven points, capped by a 3 from Stephen Curry, to get within 110-108 with 19 seconds left. Harden made one of two free throws with 11.5 seconds left. Kevin Durant missed a 3 after that. But the Warriors got the rebound and Curry also missed a 3-point attempt before Golden State was forced to foul Chris Paul.
“We got a couple of wide-open looks,” Durant said. “They just didn’t fall for us.”
Paul made one of two free throws with 2.9 seconds left to secure the victory.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr was asked about the physical play of the Rockets, who have several players who are much stockier than his squad.
“They’ve got a lot of middle linebackers on that team,” he said. “They’re sturdy and we’re like volleyball players, long and lean . . . everybody tries to be physical with us because they should. That’s the best way to try to beat us.”
After losing the first two games of the series on the road, Houston heads back to Oakland, California, for Game 5 on Wednesday night with momentum on its side after its overtime win in Game 3 before Monday night’s victory.
The Warriors got 34 points from Kevin Durant, who had 46 in the Game 3 loss. Curry, who was criticized after shooting 7- for-23 in Game 3, got off to a good start, scoring 11 points in the first quarter. He cooled off after that, but finished with 30 points on 12 of 25 shooting.
“I didn’t think we got great shots for much of the night,” Kerr said. “We’ve got to be more poised and that has to be a focus.”
Eric Gordon added 20 points for Houston and P.J. Tucker had 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Despite two straight wins, the Rockets still don’t think they’ve played their best.
“We’ve got to be better,” Tucker said. “We’ve got to be more aggressive. We’ve got to pick it up.”
Houston made 17 of its 50 3-point attempts, while the Warriors shot just 8 of 33 from downtown with Curry making just 4 of his 14 attempts.
The Rockets were up by nine after three and used an 8-2 run, with four points from Harden, to open the fourth and extend the lead to 101-86. Golden State used an 8-3 spurt, with six points from Draymond Green, to cut it to 104-94 midway through the quarter.
Houston had a 10-point lead with about four minutes left before a 5-2 run, with a 3 from Curry, got them within 108-101.
Green was shaken up when Harden inadvertently knocked him in the head on the follow through after he made a 3-pointer that put the Rockets up 71-59 with nine minutes left in the third quarter. Green fell to the court where he remained holding the left side of his head for a couple of minutes. The Warriors called a timeout and he collected himself and remained in the game. The lead grew to 77-60 before Golden State got going.
Bucks 113, Celtics 101
In Boston, Giannis Antetokounmpo watched the Bucks bench open a double-digit lead, then returned with a dominating fourth quarter to finish with 39 points and 16 rebounds as Milwaukee beat the Celtics to move one win from its first trip to the Eastern Conference finals since 2001.
“If we’re honest with you, when Giannis and Khris (Middleton) go to the bench, you’re concerned,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said after his reserves outscored Boston’s 32-7 in the game and turned a 59-59 tie into a 78-68 lead. “But you have confidence that that group can play.”
George Hill scored 15 points — nine in the third quarter — and Pat Connaughton had nine points and 10 rebounds off the bench for Milwaukee, which outscored the Celtics bench 42-16 in Game 3.
In what might be his last home game for Boston, Kyrie Irving scored 23 points with 10 assists. But he was 7-for-22 from the floor, including 1 for 7 from 3-point range