For two games on the road, the Rockets battled and found little edges that kept games close. James Harden was forced into a lot of midrange shots and tough step-backs, but he was draining them. Dwight Howard was playing through a painful knee but he was putting up double-doubles. Role players stepped up beyond what could be expected from them consistently. The defense struggled with communication at times but looked fantastic at others.
Still, it felt like there would be one game in this series where all those edges wouldn’t go their way, where the Warriors would make the plays and get the bounces.
Plus, we had yet to see the best of Stephen Curry in this series — not just the ridiculous shooter, but the MVP who made a good team great.
It all happened Saturday night.
Golden State raced out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter, got 40 points on just 19 shots from Stephen Curry, and the Warriors routed the Rockets, 115-80.
Golden State now has a commanding 3-0 series lead. I won’t get into how no team has ever come back from 3-0 down in an NBA playoff series, I’ll just say Game 4 is Monday night in Houston.
“The halftime box score was really telling…” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who noted that his team was up 25 despite shooting just 45 percent and hitting 4-of-15 from three, but they had just one turnover. “If we defend like crazy and don’t turn it over, and when we do that we’re tough to beat.”
That pretty much was Kerr’s dream half.
It was about the paint — Andrew Bogut had 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting in the first quarter, and Golden State had 14 points in the paint in the first quarter, 32 in the half. It wasn’t just post ups, it was a matter of guys working hard off the ball and working for rebounds — Golden State grabbed 38 percent of its missed shots as offensive rebounds in the first half.
Maybe the most emblematic play of the first half: Stephen Curry snuck baseline and got inside rebounding position on Dwight Howard, got the offensive board, and was fouled going back up.
“For us, we have to score in the paint, we have to get offensive rebounds,” Rockets’ coach Kevin McHale said. “They beat us up in those two areas.”
The other side of this was Houston just could not hit shots — the Rockets shot 29.3 percent in the first half and were 2-of-13 from three.
James Harden was 1-of-8 shooting in the first half, struggling with different looks and a variety of double teams. Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes got time on him, not just Klay Thompson. Golden State just started putting a second guy between Harden and the rim, and for Harden the midrange shots he made look effortless for a couple games would not go down.
Golden State was up by 25 — 62-37 — at the half. The Game felt over. It was
The Rockets came out early in the second half and made a run, got the lead down to 18 and the crowd into the game.
Then the Warriors came back and Curry shut them up — and would not give the fans a dap.
Synergy Sports tweeted out that Curry has made 91% of the 3-pointers he’s attempted from the left corner this postseason.
If you’re looking for a bright spot for the Rockets, Dwight Howard looked spry and energetic, with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting. He moved a lot better and played with some passion.
But this is a rough night in Houston — James Harden had 16 points on 3-of-16 shooting.
Houston has played well and valiantly this postseason, but the Warriors are simply better.