James Harden’s 41 bests Kevin Durant’s 46 because he had help, Rockets win Game 3

Getty Images
6 Comments

Kevin Durant once again reminded us he is the best player on the face of the earth.

In a hostile environment, Durant had 46 points, hit 6-of-10 from three, dished out six assists, and also played impressive defense all night. It was a virtuoso performance.

However, KD didn’t get much help. Stephen Curry was 0-of-6 in the fourth quarter and overtime, with four fouls. And he had this embarrassing play in a clutch moment, capping off a night Curry was 2-of-9 at the rim.

Meanwhile, James Harden got to 41 points in the game by sticking the dagger in the Warriors.

“That’s James, that’s what he does…” Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni said, but then listed contributions of bench players like Nene and Austin Rivers. “Everybody kinda gave us something and we won the game.”

That was the difference — Harden got help. Eric Gordon had 30, Nene and Clint Capela made plays, Chris Paul was not at his best but still finished with 14 points and seven assists. The Rockets as a team grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, giving themselves second chances.

It was enough. Barely. The Rockets hung on to win 126-121 in overtime, getting their first win in the series to make it 2-1. Game 4 is Monday night in Houston.

Durant has been otherworldly all players — this was his third 40-point game of these playoffs. In this series, Durant has 110 points, and Curry and Thompson have combined for just 105. Worse yet, the Rockets targeted Curry late in the game, having his man attack him off the dribble.

This Rockets win did not feel like a series changer — there was not some critical adjustment, some great change that elevated their game or gave them a massive advantage. The Rockets were just grittier, and their stars stepped up in the moment.

The Rockets came out with an appropriate sense of desperation to start Game 3 and the Warriors shooting struggles came early, which led to a 58-49 halftime lead for Houston. Golden State’s big three — Curry, Durant, and Thompson — combined to shoot 11-of-32 in the first half, and as a team the Warriors were just 3-of-16 from three. Kerr tried to change the momentum in the final five minutes by going to his Hamptons’ Five lineup, and that didn’t change the lead (it was nine when they entered and at half).

Meanwhile, the Rockets got 20 points from Eric Gordon in the first half, he was 4-of-9 from three before the break.

Whenever the Warriors would go on a run in the third, the Rockets answered (and often the Warriors shot themselves in the foot). At one point Golden State cut the lead to 7, but then Curry missed a layup and Harden answered on the other end with a three. Next possession, Thompson missed a layup and CP3 responded with a three. At the end of three, it was still Rockets by 7.

Then the Warriors made an early fourth quarter run, fueled by Durant, that made it close down the stretch. At the end of the fourth, nobody could buy a bucket — the Rockets and Warriors combined to go 1-of-10 in the final minutes of regulation — which led to overtime. That’s where the lid stayed on the Warriors basket — for three straight possessions Durant did not touch the ball for reasons nobody can explain — and the Rockets got just enough for the win.

Now Houston needs to do it again Monday, but it got the win, got back in the series and gave itself a chance.