Kevin Durant vs. James Harden. This duel may just go the distance, and the two stars know it.
Everyone figured the Western Conference semifinal between Golden State and Houston had a chance to be more like the NBA Finals in terms of talent on each side, and now it’s tied at 2-all.
The NBA’s best are dazzling on defense and trading big shots on offense.
“The way both teams are playing with such intensity and aggression, it’s fun to be out there,” Durant said. “We’re looking forward to Game 5.”
The series resumes Wednesday night at Oracle Arena, which could host its final game if Golden State doesn’t handle business at home. The Warriors will move to new Chase Center in San Francisco next season.
“The mood’s good. Playoffs, this is what it’s about,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Tuesday afternoon once his team touched down in Oakland. “Our team has been here many times. We’ve been in much worse situations, being down in a series, being on the road for Game 7s. We’ve pretty much seen it all. This is just another chapter in the book.”
Also Wednesday, Boston will try to stave off elimination playing at Milwaukee. The Bucks are up 3-1.
“These kinds of situations show a lot about people,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “It doesn’t always mean you’re going to have success. But competing at the level you need to compete and making sure you’re as urgent as you’ve ever been on every possession is of ultimate importance.”
Back in the Bay Area, Splash Brothers Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will try to find their shooting touch. They combined to shoot 9 of 35 on 3-pointers and 30 of 79 overall the past two games.
Curry and Durant each missed good looks from long range with a chance to tie Game 4 in the waning seconds.
Chris Paul and Harden, meanwhile, know they might have swung momentum after evening the series with Monday night’s 112-108 victory.
“I hope so. I hope we have it,” Harden said. “We’re not going to let up. We’re going to keep coming at you until the end of the game.”
A look at Wednesday’s games:
ROCKETS AT WARRIORS
Series tied at 2. Game 5, 10:30 p.m. EDT, TNT
NEED TO KNOW: The Warriors have acknowledged their lack of focus at times this season, losing badly at home on a handful of occasions and struggling with the basics such as taking care of the ball.
Now, they will try to channel positive energy into another performance like their 115-109 Game 2 victory at Oracle in which Golden State showed intensity on both ends.
“We love it. Obviously, we would love to be up 3-1 or have the series over, but there’s no panic,” Curry said. “We’re together and we understand what the task at hand is. It’s very similar to the last series where you just roll with the punches and get the job done any way you can. We can take control of the series at home and take it from there.”
INJURY WATCH: Golden State flew later in the day Tuesday so players could receive treatment and get some recovery time, Kerr said.
Starting forward Andre Iguodala is probable after hyperextending his left knee late in Monday’s loss.
Meanwhile, Harden’s left eye is still red from an injury in Game 2.
“It just looks crazy but it’s getting better,” he said. “The doctor said it might be a couple of days or it might be a week before it clears up.”
Durant grabbed his right elbow repeatedly during Game 4. The two-time reigning finals MVP was hurt when he trailed Harden on an early fast break and bumped the Houston star in the head while attempting to block the shot from behind.
In addition, guard Shaun Livingston is “a little banged up,” Kerr said.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Rebounding. The Rockets outrebounded the Warriors 55-35 in their Game 3 win then 50-43 on Monday — getting 20 from Clint Capela in the two victories.
Golden State held an edge on the boards in Games 1 and 2.
It starts with defense to generate rebounding opportunities like the Warriors had in their two wins at home.
PRESSURE IS ON: The Warriors’ 3-point shooting.
Golden State shot 8 for 33 from deep in Game 4 while the Rockets finished 17 of 50.
“I thought we took a lot of quick, hasty shots where we didn’t have the rhythm, where we let them off the hook,” Kerr said. “It’s not anything elaborate.”
CELTICS AT BUCKS
Bucks lead 3-1. Game 5, 8 p.m. EDT, TNT
NEED TO KNOW: After heading to the bench with his fourth foul early in the third quarter, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo had 17 points and seven rebounds in the fourth to help the Bucks pull away in Game 5. He has averaged 33 points per game in Milwaukee’s three straight wins after struggling in Game 1.
INJURY WATCH: Stevens said Marcus Smart came through injury-free in his first game since suffering an abdominal injury on April 7, the second-to-last game of the regular season. Yet Stevens acknowledged there was some rust. “When you haven’t played full-speed, 5-on-5, especially when you’re coming back for a playoff game, I think that’s difficult,” Stevens said. “But we kind of knew that going in. I thought he did give us some good stuff, too, when he was in there.”
Smart played 15 minutes in Game 4, limited to three points while shooting 1 of 7 on 3-pointers.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Bench scoring. Boston’s bench was outscored 32-7 in Game 4 after being outscored 42-16 in Game 3. With the Celtics’ starters struggling in the third quarter in this series, they will need their reserves to step up in Game 5.
PRESSURE IS ON: Kyrie Irving. After declaring that he wouldn’t have another performance like his 8-for-22 shooting in Game 3, he went 7 of 22 in Game 4. He hasn’t been shy about saying that it’s up to him to lead the Celtics during the postseason. It might be his final game with Boston before he can become a free agent this summer. The six-time All-Star had 23 points and 10 assists in the 113-101 Game 4 defeat, shooting 1 of 7 from deep.
Irving scored 26 points in Boston’s Game 1 victory. Since then, he is 19 of 62, going 4 of 20 on 3s.
AP Sports Writers Kristie Rieken in Houston and Jimmy Golen and Kyle Hightower in Boston contributed to this report.
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