HOUSTON – Game 4 always is the pivotal contest of a best-of-seven series, and it will be no different when the Warriors and Rockets convene Monday night at Toyota Center.
Pregame coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 5 p.m., with Warriors Outsiders, followed by SNC: Warriors Playoff Central. Tipoff of the TNT telecast is scheduled for 6:35.
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The Warriors, with a 2-1 series lead, are trying to seize control before returning to the Bay Area for Game 5 on Wednesday.
Houston is in the desperate position of trying to keep alive realistic hopes of advancing.
Though the Warriors would like to get more production from guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the bigger issues in a 126-121 loss in Game 3 were poor defense and rebounding. The Rockets snagged 17 offensive rebounds while posting a whopping 55-35 advantage on the glass, both statistics indicative of their determination.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr believes it's imperative that his team raises its intensity to meet that of the Rockets. Should he get his wish, the edge likely will go to the defending champs.
F – Andre Iguodala
F – Kevin Durant
C – Draymond Green
G – Klay Thompson
G – Stephen Curry
F – Eric Gordon
F – PJ Tucker
C – Clint Capela
G – James Harden
G – Chris Paul
Warriors: C DeMarcus Cousins (L quadriceps tear) and C Damian Jones (L pectoral surgery) are listed as out.
Rockets: F Danuel House Jr. (R toe inflammation) is listed as questionable.
Warriors: Aside from the first and third quarters, Kerr generally has alternated his four stars, with Curry and Green finishing each of those quarters and sitting out early portions of the second and fourth quarters while Durant and Thompson open both. It has been hinted there could be changes, with the possibility of more time going to a Curry-Durant combo. The goal would be for Curry (shooting 35.3 percent overall and 25.0 percent from deep in the series) to find his shooting rhythm.
Durant is averaging 36.3 ppg in the series but has yet to shoot 50 percent in a game. He shot 52.1 percent in the regular season, his seventh consecutive above 50 percent, and was at 56.7 percent in the first round against the Clippers.
Five bench players have been utilized in each of the first three games, with guard Shaun Livingston, center Kevon Looney and forward Alfonzo McKinnie getting the most significant minutes. Among healthy players, only center Jordan Bell and guard Quinn Cook have yet to appear in a game.
The Warriors have won at least one road game in 20 consecutive playoff series, an NBA record.
Rockets: Though they have made no lineup changes, there was a strategic adjustment in Game 3, with the first half revealing a greater commitment to driving into the paint rather than the usual succession of 3-pointers. It paid off later, as the Rockets shot 52.2 percent from deep after halftime.
Harden, as well as coach Mike D'Antoni, have vowed to spend less time trying to force the Warriors to switch on offense. One reason is that is drains the shot clock. The Rockets have had four violations of the 24-second clock this series.
Though Tucker is shooting only 33.3 percent, he has been a force, averaging 8.3 rebounds and using his bulk (6-5, 240) for occasional success against Durant. Tucker's plus-4 for the series is tops among Houston starters.
[RELATED: Series goes as Iguodala-Harden matchup goes]
Sixth Man Austin Rivers, who missed Game 1, was a factor in Games 2 and 3, averaging 11.0 ppg and 26 minutes. He was plus-19 over the two games.
The Rockets are 4-0 in home games during the playoffs.
Officials: Mike Callahan (chief), David Guthrie, Kevin Scott. Alternate: Michael Smith.