Harden takes frustrations out on Warriors

HOUSTON -- James Harden wasn't very happy with things, so he took the advice of his coach and changed his mood while also giving his Houston Rockets hope.

It's slim hope, but in reality, that's all you need.

Harden scored a playoff career-high 45 points on 22 shots. He made seven 3-pointers and recorded nine rebounds and five assists as the Rockets kept their season alive with a 128-115 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Monday in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.

Harden shot 3-for-16 in Game 3 and had to hear the noise of how badly he performed on his home court in a 35-point Warriors victory.

"He was extremely unhappy [Sunday at practice], and he took it out, but that's what you've got to do," Kevin McHale said. "You've got to take it out on them. It doesn't do any good to take it out on the trainer and your teammates and your coach. You take it out on the other team, and he did it. He went out, and he played a hell of a game."

Said Harden: "I always want to take it out on my opponent, in a good way. Just being aggressive, like I said, taking shots, getting to the basket, not really forcing anything and allowing the game to come to me."

Up 3-1, the Warriors remain in control of this series as it heads back to Oakland on Wednesday. Harden's most recent appearance at Oracle Arena ended with him capping a 38-point night by turning the ball over at the final buzzer of Game 2, which gave the Warriors a 99-98 victory.

Harden lay on the floor in disgust and knocked a curtain down on the way to the locker room that night. His efforts the next game were disappointing, especially with Stephen Curry scoring 40 points in Harden's building.

Game 4 started off slowly for Harden, as he missed a layup and a midrange jumper, but the Rockets jumped out to a 17-3 lead, and he hadn't scored a bucket.

By the time the quarter ended, Harden had 10 points.

Yeah, he was cooking.

"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."

This is the Harden the Rockets need to salvage their season, the one who is the aggressor in every aspect of his game. On Monday night, Harden pushed the pace and took his shots when needed.

Harden scored nine points in an 11-2 third-quarter run, which pushed the Rockets' lead to 19 points. In the fourth quarter, he alone accounted for a run, as he scored all nine points of a 9-3 spurt that pushed the Rockets' lead from nine to 13.

Twice in the fourth quarter, when the Warriors were mounting their comeback, Harden shut it down. Down eight, Harden pushed the lead to 11 with a 26-foot jumper with seven minutes left. Houston's double-digit lead was down to single digits again, and Harden made a step-back 3 for an 11-point lead.

Two possessions later, Harden sent a bounce pass to Terrence Jones for a layup that gave the Rockets a 123-112 advantage.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr needed a timeout after the play. With 67 seconds left, there was nothing left to fight for.

"Well, the game sped up," Kerr said. "They got off to such a quick start. We had a few turnovers, the game was going fast, and he was in a good flow. He made shots early [and] got into a groove."

The Rockets need him to continue that for three more games, but the odds are still against Houston's moving on to the NBA Finals. No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series.