Rockets, fatigue beat warriors in game 4 astrid y gaston lima reservations

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Warriors coach Steve Kerr played Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green for the entirety of the third quarter of Game 4. That move that paid dividends at the time, as a patented Curry flurry gave Golden State a 10-point lead, but it came back to sting in the fourth as all four players — the Warriors’ four most important players — looked exhausted in the final frame.

“This is the highest level we’ve played defensively, without a doubt,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “They got a little tired in the fourth quarter, and that’s because they felt us for three quarters…That’s what the formula is, and we’ll see if we can do that when we get to Houston.”

I haven’t seen the Warriors that tired late in a game since the fourth quarter of Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. Unsurprisingly, the result of that game and Tuesday’s were the same. (It’s actually rather frightening how similar those quarters were.) Golden State Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr talks with Stephen Curry (30) in the first quarter of Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference finals against the Houston Rockets at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, May 22, 2018.

Is that fair? No. But truth be told, it was a bit of a choke job. No matter how tired the Warriors might have been, the Rockets were tired too. They used only seven players and four of their starters played 41 minutes or more. But they executed while the Warriors flailed around for the final 12 minutes.

Iguodala provides so many great things for the Warriors — his elite defense and pace-setting abilities were missed as the Rockets climbed back from both a 12-0 opening deficit and the 10-point hole the Warriors’ late third-quarter run produced.

The Warriors started Kevon Looney in Iguodala’s place in Game 4 and the team’s great start appeared to validate that decision. But after Looney found himself in foul trouble, it was clear that the Warriors had no one else to go to on the bench.

Jordan Bell — who had played 50 total minutes in the postseason before Tuesday, most of them in garbage time — was pressed into 18 minutes of action in Game 4. Most of them were good, but there’s a reason why the Warriors weren’t giving him that kind of run in the first three games of the series.

And Shaun Livingston, who had been so solid for the Warriors in the first three games of this series, could not take his game to another level on Tuesday. The Rockets’ were extra physical with the guard in Game 4 and he scored only four points and was a game-worst minus-15.

Even with the shortened rotations in the postseason, that kind of bench play is simply not enough in a critical game like Tuesday’s. Not against a team as good as the Rockets. Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry (30) lays up a shot past Houston Rockets’ James Harden (13) during the first quarter of Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference Finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

And you can’t even pin this loss on Kerr — the man who handled the rotations. What was he going to do? Play Cook longer? Go to JaVale McGee? And no one in their right mind would have advocated for him to sub anyone out in the third quarter when the Warriors were opening up their lead — you don’t stop punching when you’re about to land what you think is a knock-out blow.

No, Kerr was stuck between a rock and a hard place Tuesday, and he ended up crushed. The Warriors’ roster depth was thin before Iguodala was out, and now with the point-forward sidelined (we have no idea when he’ll be back), it’s almost indiscernible.

Perhaps this is why the Warriors haven’t made any pushes early in games — instead, they wait until the third to go on their run. If they push early, they naturally get complacent — take their foot off the proverbial pedal — and more often than not, the opponent works their way back into the game. Then they have to make another push.