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Houston Rockets have life, but barely

The Houston Rockets are still in the hunt to make the NBA Finals, although the flame is barely flickering. Houston defeated the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals at Toyota Center on Monday night, winning 128-115 behind James Harden’s 45 points. Harden spoke afterwards about his success, per ESPN.

“Combination of just moving my body, setting screens, cutting, coming off when I got an opportunity,” Harden said. “Coming off hard to attack and, ultimately, just being aggressive, taking my shot when I had it and mixing it up.”

It was a nice tribute to fans going through a tough time due to the flooding in Texas, not that sports can do much in a terrible situation such as this. Unfortunately for the Rockets, that will likely be all the consolation they can give to the struggling city. Going back to ORACLE Arena for Game 5, Golden State stands to move on to the Finals, a place the franchise has not been since beating the Washington Bullets in 1975 behind Rick Barry.

The effort shown by Houston on Monday is commendable but likely too late. No NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit. On the bright side, the Rockets will have center Dwight Howard for Game 5 after he threw an elbow at the head of Warriors center Andrew Bogut, per ESPN.

“I deemed it unnecessary but not unnecessary and excessive,” NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn said. “It wasn’t over the limit.”

With Howard and Harden in the lineup, it is impossible to count Houston out. Still, the mountain remains huge. Golden State has only lost three times at ORACLE Arena all year, including one defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies in the conference semis. For the Rockets to get this series back to Houston for a Game 6, they will need men like Jason Terry and Josh Smith to step up and give key minutes. Smith has been an enigma throughout the postseason, showing up one night only to disappoint the next.

For the Warriors, they will return with a healthy Stephen Curry to a charged-up arena. Curry, who suffered a head contusion during a nasty fall in Game 4, was able to return in the third quarter and will be playing in Game 5 barring an unforeseen setback. If Curry and Klay Thompson bring their best stuff, the Finals matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers will be set. If not, a crack opens for Houston.

In the end, the Rockets have enjoyed a great season. After beating the Los Angeles Clippers following a 3-1 deficit, it feels like everything else is icing for this gutsy Houston squad. If this is the conclusion, there is nothing to be ashamed of. If not, Game 6 will be extremely interesting.

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