Game 3 may very well have changed the momentum of this series, if only for a moment. The Houston Rockets came away with a victory on home court, 126-121 in overtime, against the two-time defending champions the Golden State Warriors.
So far, while the Warriors hold a 2-1 lead in this best of seven series, there has not been much separating these two Western Conference foes. In fact, the three games have been settled by a total of 15 points or each game has come down to two or three possessions.
In Game 3, one could point to the blocked shot in the first quarter as Clint Capela denied Andre Iguodala a dunk. There is also the 12 rebounds, five of which were offensive, from PJ Tucker, giving his team extra possessions. Another key factor is the number of missed shots, in particular layups from Stephen Curry. Curry blew a dunk with less than a shot clock to play in OT with the Rockets leading 126-121 at the time.
James Harden’s 41 points, shooting 43.8%, had as much to do with Houston getting back into this series as anything else. He hit some tough contested 3-pointers, including one that extended Houston’s OT lead to 124-118. It also helped Harden and Houston that Eric Gordon was fantastic with 30 points, shooting 55%.
As for the Warriors, with the exception of Kevin Durant, who bested Harden with 46 points, no one else scored over 20 to support KD. The Warriors simply have to be better. Game 4 will take place Monday night in Houston.
Houston Rockets Starters
The Rockets will likely start James Harden, Eric Gordon, Chris Paul, PJ Tucker and Clint Capela.
Golden State Warriors Starters
The Warriors will start Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, and Andrew Bogut.
Expectations and Prediction
Chris Paul has always been known as a scoring guard. If the Houston Rockets are to push this series to a Game 7, like they did last year against these same Warriors, Paul must play a big role offensively. In the three games this series, Paul has been averaging 16.3 ppg, shooting 15/31. He needs to take more shots and take some pressure off of Harden.
James Harden needs to do more of what he did in Game 3. Harden, if there is one criticism of him, has bought into the philosophy of 3 and “D” wholeheartedly. He only shoots layups or threes and has removed mid-range shooting from his game. However, in Game 3 of this series, he dusted off his mid-range game going 9/19 on 2-point field goal attempts. Harden needs to stay away from poor shot selection or contested threes. He was 5/13 from long-range in Game 3.
The Golden State Warriors need to get better performances out of their star players. Apart from Durant’s 46 points, Stephen Curry was an uncharacteristic 7/23 and missed several easy layups and a dunk late in overtime. Klay Thompson was 6/16, shooting 37.5%, and just 2/6 from 3-point range.
Both the Warriors and the Rockets live by the sword and could die by it as well if three-point attempts are the sword. They are not shy about launching shots from long range. The teams combined for 32/75 from behind the arc shooting 42.6% in Game 3. When the three fails, a team can shoot itself right out of a game.
Expect Game 4 to be another close one. However, do not expect Curry to miss layups or open shots as he did. The Rockets, in particular Paul, must pick it up offensively so there is less defensive pressure on James Harden. Game 4 will likely come down to three or four possessions again, but expect the Warriors to take a 3-1 series lead.