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Rockets vs. Warriors Game 4 preview: Playing for pride

Four straight wins against the Warriors is an impossible task. One win is not.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

No team in NBA history has come back from a 3-0 deficit in the playoffs -- a refrain we'll hear plenty of in the broadcast tonight -- but no team hoping to do just that can hope to accomplish it without winning Game 4.

It seems obvious and stupid, but it's true. Reality is here: the Rockets have an infinitesimal chance of extending their season beyond the Western Conference Finals. If anyone had told me the Rockets would make the Western Conference Finals before the year started, I would have gladly taken it.

Now that we're here, I desperately wanted more. A near-miss in Game 1 with an injured Dwight Howard gave me hope that the Rockets had flipped a switch against the Clippers and were realizing their destiny. Game 2 -- even closer, with Dwight looking like a dominant force yet again -- was even more of a tease, and had me thinking that if the Rockets could just take care of business at home, this might be a series yet.

Game 3 was a hand grenade in the middle of those hopes, dropping in quickly and devastatingly, leaving nothing but strewn wreckage and rubble behind. A 35-point defeat at home with the series and the season on the line is an explosive failure, and one that won't go away for a long time.

The Rockets gave everything they had in games one and two, knowing that a road win would fundamentally change the series. In Game 3, they had nothing left. The shots clanked just short and wide, and there was no fight left in the second half.

Game 4 should be different. If we've learned anything about this Rockets team in the postseason it's that they won't quit just because they're supposed to (they might quit when they're not supposed to, however). I don't expect a shameful blowout to happen in Houston. In fact, I expect a win tonight.

James Harden and Dwight Howard are two of the very best basketball players on this planet. They know it, the Rockets know it, the Warriors know it. The only people who can truly stop them are themselves. Howard has been a re-revelation this past month, and Harden has done more than enough to quiet any more doubters about what he can do in the postseason.

The game tonight, at 8 p.m. CT, is not meaningless for the men in ketchup and mustard. It almost certainly will have no bearing on the outcome of this series, but this team deserves better than to exit the postseason being swept on their home floor. They have to earn their legacy tonight. They are playing for pride, playing for each other and playing for their city. They may lose, but they may not quit.