HOUSTON — James Harden was not happy after a poor performance in Houston’s embarrassing loss to Golden State in Game 3.
Coach Kevin McHale told him the best thing to do was take that frustration out on the other team.
Harden did just that, scoring a playoff career-high 45 points as the Rockets led from start to finish to avoid elimination in the Western Conference finals with a 128-115 victory over the Warriors on Monday night.
“James had a phenomenal game,” McHale said.
The Rockets had a big lead after tying a playoff record with 45 points in the first quarter before Stephen Curry landed on his head in a nasty spill midway through the second and missed about 12 minutes.
Curry said he went through the concussion protocol before returning.
“It was all minor stuff compared to how it looked,” Curry said. “But I’ll get some good rest (Monday night) and be ready to go. … Since it happened to now, nothing has gotten worse.”
His first field goal after returning came on a 3-pointer that got Golden State within six points with less than 8 1/2 minutes remaining. But Harden, who had 17 points in the fourth quarter, scored the next seven as part of 10 straight by Houston to push the lead to 114-98.
“I always want to take it out on my opponent in a good way,” Harden said. “Just being aggressive, taking shots, getting to the basket, not really forcing anything and allowing the game to come to me.”
Klay Thompson had 24 points and Curry added 23 for Golden State, which moved a win away from its first trip to the NBA Finals since 1975 after routing Houston 115-80 on Saturday night to take a 3-0 lead.
But the Warriors couldn’t put the Rockets away and will try again at home in Game 5 on Wednesday night.
Thumbnail photo via Thomas B. Shea/USA TODAY Sports Images
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