(Reuters) - The Golden State Warriors survived a major injury scare to NBA MVP Stephen Curry but still lost the game as a James Harden-inspired Houston Rockets staved off playoff elimination with a 128-115 victory on Monday.
Curry went down in the second quarter of Game Four in the Western Conference Finals, falling hard on his upper back and neck after flipping over Rockets forward Trevor Ariza, silencing a previously raucous Houston home crowd.
The star point guard remained on the floor below the basket for a few minutes to receive treatment before gently rising to his feet and walking slowly back to the locker room as he left the game with a head contusion.
However, Curry surprisingly returned to the fray with about six minutes remaining in the third after tests determined he had not suffered a concussion.
“Obviously that’s always scary. Guy hits his neck, you worry about that,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr told reporters.
He said Curry was assessed using concussion protocols.
“Our doctors cleared him and he’s doing fine.”
Curry’s return did little to change the momentum of the game, though, as the Rockets rode a monumental 45-point effort from Harden, his best ever playoff haul, to avoid the sweep.
Harden also pulled down nine rebounds, while center Dwight Howard notched 14 points and 12 boards as the Rockets ensured they would live to fight another day, pulling back to 3-1 down in the best-of-seven series.
Curry finished with 23 points, while guard Klay Thompson led the Warriors with 24.
Golden State, who will have their next chance to close out the series back in Oakland on Wednesday, have not been to the NBA finals since 1975.
No team has ever lost a best-of-seven series after winning the first three games but the Rockets did improve to 4-0 while facing elimination this post-season, the latest victory added to the ones they strung together after trailing the Los Angeles Clippers 3-1 in the last round.
Reporting by Cameron French; Editing by John O'Brien