James Harden (275792)
Credit: Contributed

When the defending champions, the Golden State Warriors, took the floor last night at Oracle Arena, their court against the Houston Rockets, the series tied 2-2, Golden State had struggled through a two-game losing streak, one a five-point overtime loss and the other a four-point loss, both in Houston, that dramatized one thing, the Warriors’ lack of physicality.

“We didn’t match their physicality until about the last four minutes of the game, and it’s been that way for about the last 96 minutes of this series,” said Draymond Green, one of the Warriors’ most physical players.

“We go into a fight thinking it’s a fair fight and it’s not. They’re doing whatever it takes to win. And not that they’re doing anything dirty, or nothing like that, but they’re doing whatever it takes to win and we’re just rolling in like, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll box,’ and they’re slapping us.”

It was the complete opposite during Games 1 and 2. Golden State took it to them, “And they weren’t really responding as far as the physicality went.”

“When you’re dealing with these guys, if you let Klay and Steph run around and shoot threes you don’t have no chance,” said Houston guard James Harden, their most prolific scorer. “The only chance we have is to be in to their bodies and make every shot that they take contested.”

For Green it’s a matter of the team just changing its mindset, “Then we’ll be just fine.”

There’s also been concern about teammate Klay Thompson’s production. In Games 3 and 4, he’s been 11 for 31 combined, shooting 3 for 12 from the three. Both Thompson and Steph Curry entered this series with ailing right ankles. Curry has also slumped, averaging 18.3 points in the first three games of the series, nine points below his regular season average. He’s also been in foul trouble. Game 4 on Monday was his breakout game, 30 points, 8 assists.

With Harden, who’s averaged 35.7 points per game, 35, 29, 41 and 38, and Chris Paul in his back court on the other side, the one constant for Golden State has been Kevin Durant who has averaged 36 points per semi-final game, wins and losses. He has dropped 34, 46, 29 and 35, a 36 point average.

“When he’s being as aggressive as he’s been, I don’t think there’s anyone in the NBA, maybe the world, who can stop him,” said Green about the two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP.

Steve Kerr, the Warriors’ head coach, has been recently quoted several times saying, “He’s the most skilled basketball player on earth. He’s one of the most skilled basketball players to ever play the game.”

Both Durant and Harden will need their high skill capacity to lead their teams to the Western Conference Finals. Game 6 is scheduled in Houston for Friday. Game 7, back in Oracle on Sunday, if necessary.