The Houston Rockets avoided a potential 3-0 hole and pulled out a statement win over the Golden State Warriors in overtime, taking a vital 126-121 Game 3 win on Saturday to make this a series. In the process, the Warriors revealed their biggest weakness, one that could cost them more than a playoff loss: a chance of a three-peat.
These are 5 Clutch Points from Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals:
Another KD night wasted
Much as the Warriors did in Game 5 of their first-round series against the L.A. Clippers, they managed to squander another great night from Kevin Durant, who scored a game-high 46 points in Game 3 in Houston.
Durant got off to a slow start in the first half, scoring only 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting from the floor, but he caught fire in the third quarter and rode it all the way to the end in a bombastic performance.
However, a forgettable night from Stephen Curry and a ghastly outing from the Golden State bench ruined what could have been an inspiring winning effort.
Durant shot 2-of-6 from deep to start the game, but knocked down his next four trifectas, quickly gaining the rhythm he needed to keep the Warriors in the game.
The Slim Reaper surpassed the recently-retired Dwyane Wade on the all-time playoff scoring list. He has scored 320 points in nine games this postseason, and if his NBA-leading 35.6 points per game average is any indication, he’s bound to hunt for more names through the course of this postseason — now among the 10 best scorers in NBA playoff history.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 5, 2019
Durant scored 17 points in the third quarter and went on a personal 10-point run to start the fourth quarter to give the Warriors a narrow fourth-quarter lead.
KD had a red hot start to the 4th 🔥 pic.twitter.com/LuMvtfCNAj
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) May 5, 2019
Even in overtime, Durant drove in for a tough layup and made all three free throws after Austin Rivers fouled him on a 3-point jump shot in a play off a timeout.
KD is an axe murderer when he gets going and there is little stopping him when he gets on a roll. Durant’s scoring explosion was only stopped by a Steve Kerr substitution in that fourth quarter, though ultimately his own teammates let him down, falling short of a win.
Undefeated no more
The Warriors have been able to count on three things since forging this dynasty: death, taxes, and winning games when Draymond Green has a triple-double.
That is no longer the case.
Golden State lost its first game when Green musters the feat, snapping a streak of 28 straight victories and no defeats when the mercurial forward triple-doubles, including a perfect 5-0 in the playoffs.
Green scored a postseason-high 19 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out 10 assists, along with two blocks to round out his performance, though it wasn’t enough to topple the Rockets on their own home court.
Green has now scored in double digits in four straight games and in seven of the Warriors’ nine postseason games, becoming a capable scorer and an effective one. He is shooting 65.5% from the field in this series.
When faced with this stat after the conclusion of this game, Kevin Durant summed it up simply:
“Numbers don’t really matter,” said Durant. “They don’t tell the whole story.”
Green once again left his stamp on the game, but even his well-rounded play couldn’t erase a nightmarish night for Stephen Curry and the clear lack of depth the Warriors showed in Game 3.
A night to forget for Steph
Stephen Curry has yet to have a splash-worthy game this postseason, and Game 3 sure wasn’t it.
The Splash Brother put up 17 points and shot a woeful 7-of-23 from the floor, including 2-of-9 from deep and a puzzling 1-of-3 from the foul line after drawing a foul when shooting an early trey.
From then on, Curry’s night would look more and more dire, unable to gain any rhythm and constantly misfiring in long-range attempts.
His acumen wouldn’t change from in-close, where he missed a total of six bunnies, including this cringe-worthy dunk attempt that would have shaved the Dubs’ deficit to three points down the stretch.
OH NO, STEPH 😵 pic.twitter.com/cn0VZ6vK8v
— ESPN (@espn) May 5, 2019
Yet this night was more than Curry launching enough bricks to build a house. It also magnified his overall attitude. Removed from his opening 3-pointer — the Warriors’ first basket of the game — Curry looked uninterested, disengaged and lackadaisical, playing without the swagger and oomph that has made him the superstar player he is.
If it wasn’t telling in regulation, the Warriors’ reaction after his missed dunk said it all. The team didn’t even try to foul in the closing seconds of the overtime period.
Five of Steph Curry's six bad misses at the rim tonight were with his right (non-affected) hand. Can't blame the tape/dislocation, just a bizarro night for him inside. pic.twitter.com/EXhaNkrnrX
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) May 5, 2019
Golden State knew this game wasn’t meant to be a win. Saturday’s performance can’t be blamed on Curry’s injured left ring finger, but it is one major aspect that needs to change if the Warriors are to take Game 4 on the road on Monday.
Gordon & Harden catch fire
It wouldn’t be a series without the Rockets finding their stroke… and oh did they manage to make it rain in the Toyota Center.
Eric Gordon led the way with 20 points in the first half, finishing with 30 in the game after canning seven of his 14 long-range attempts. The nifty shooting guard got open plenty in Game 3, burying big shot after big shot to give the Rockets their much-needed firepower.
James Harden was quick to follow suit, scoring 28 of his 41 points in the second half and overtime, including a devastating stepback 3-pointer over Andre Iguodala to seal the game.
Harden with the clutch step back three over iggy – 49 secs remaining in OT! | ESPN pic.twitter.com/5gvpyQnEWJ
— The Render (@TheRenderNBA) May 5, 2019
The Beard appeared unbothered by his eye injury, making 14 of his 32 field goals and dishing out six assists in the game.
Add Chris Paul’s 14 points, and the Rockets’ Big 3 combined for 85 points, outscoring the trio of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Houston hit 18 of 42 3-point attempts, and its offensive rebounding proved vital in creating second-chance opportunities to aid the Rockets in this win. If the Rockets can reproduce this recipe in Game 4, the Warriors are in for a series.
A wound revealed: The Warriors’ nonexistent bench
Golden State had a dire need for some bench contributions after playing the starters heavy minutes in Games 1 and 2. However, the Warriors got only seven of their 121 points (5.8% of their offense) from their dilapidated reserves.
Steve Kerr made the first move in this game of chess by starting veteran Andre Iguodala and trotting out his Hamptons 5 lineup to start the series. While it was a hit for Game 1 and proved vital in Game 2, it was only a matter of time before this ballsy move showed its weakness.
Taking Iguodala out of the second unit has left the Warriors scrambling for answers, forced to leave two scorers along with the second unit to generate any sort of offense.
On Saturday, the bank ran out of bills.
The Warriors’ lack of depth wasn’t any more evident than at the start of the second quarter. Holding onto a 26-25 first-quarter lead, Golden State entered the second with a lineup of Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Shaun Livingston, Jonas Jerebko, and Andrew Bogut. The unit was disastrous, posting a combined minus-12 in the first four minutes and 10 seconds of the second quarter, trailing 38-27 by the time Steve Kerr was forced to put his starters back in.
This wasn’t just a bad night for the bench, but the clear display of the worst-case scenario that could very well repeat itself at some other point of this postseason for the Dubs.
The Warriors’ bench is the frailest it’s ever been since this dynasty started, and the Rockets have exposed that, outscoring Golden State 21-7 while playing only nine players.
Saturday night was yet another night of exhaustion for the starters. Durant logged a game-high 50 minutes with not much to show for it — just a loss on the road.
All of this, however, can be ameliorated by stealing a game on the road and swinging the momentum — yet it still remains the Achilles heel of this juggernaut, one that could ultimately wind up costing the Warriors a title.