Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets

Game 4 preview: James Harden, Rockets attempt to even series in tough road test

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Warriors guard Stephen Curry defends Rockets guard James Harden (Getty Images)

No. 1 Rockets vs. No. 2 Warriors - Golden State leads 2-1

Following its 41-point win in Game 3, Golden State looks to take a 3-1 lead over the Western Conference's No. 1 seed.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Game 3 is that Stephen Curry is back and healthy. After a quiet first half (9 points, 3-of-11 shooting), the Warriors' two-time MVP exploded for 18 points on 7-of-7 shooting in the third quarter. Curry's sudden surge helped Golden State build a 21-point lead heading into the fourth, and it never looked back, outscoring the Rockets 38-18 in the final frame.

Curry finished with 35 points on 13-of-23 shooting from the field and 5-of-12 shooting from 3-point range. The win marked the Warriors' 16th consecutive postseason victory at Oracle Arena, a new NBA record.

Curry's return to a stellar level of play makes the Warriors offense seemingly impossible to stop - all five starters finished in double-figures in Game 3. Kevin Durant (25 points, six rebounds, six assists), Draymond Green (10 points, 17 rebounds, six assists), Klay Thompson (13 points) and Andre Iguodala (10 points, three assists) each benefited from Curry's offensive outburst. Iguodala, however, is listed as questionable for Game 4 due to a knee injury.

How Curry follows such a performance will be the key to Game 4 for Golden State. His ability to take over offensively will make things easier for everyone else, specifically Durant and Thompson. If Iguodala is unable to play in Game 4, the Warriors will have to deviate from their dangerous "Hamptons Five" lineup, which changes the outlook of the game.

As Houston attempts to even the series, it can look back to the big loss to see exactly what not to do in Game 4.

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Sure Not Now

The Rockets committed 20 turnovers as a team (leading to 28 points), were outrebounded 49-41 and scored a postseason-low 85 points on 39.5 percent shooting while allowing 126 points on 52.2 percent shooting. Head coach Mike D'Antoni said his team played "soft" in the loss, and his leaders agreed. Expect Houston to respond to the challenge in Game 4.

James Harden (20 points) led the Rockets' scoring efforts in the nightmarish Game 3, while Chris Paul (13 points), Clint Capela (13 points) and Eric Gordon (11 points) all finished in double-figures as well. Houston's offensive woes stemmed from an inability to finish around the rim (20-of-43 in the paint) and inefficiency - Harden, Paul and Gordon combined to shoot 16-of-45 from the field.

The stars of Game 2 - PJ Tucker, Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green - combined to score 21 points on 7-of-21 shooting in the Game 3 loss. On the offensive end, Houston will need to improve across the board, while the defensive focus must be to neutralize Curry and his impact in Game 4. Both are much easier said than done, but each element will be hugely important if the Rockets want to head back home tied 2-2.

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