No, of course this wasn’t going to be easy.
Now, it’s time for a pivotal Game 4. Win, and the Warriors have a commanding control of the series; lose, and the Rockets have effectively taken their home court advantage back.
WHAT: Warriors vs. Rockets Game 4 (Warriors lead series 2-1)
WHEN: Tuesday, May 22 6:00 p.m.
LISTEN: 95.7 the Game
Blog Buddy: The Dream Shake
Iguodala could be out
You’ve probably seen it by now, but Andre Iguodala took a nasty looking knee from James Harden on Sunday. You can read Brady’s short form article on the situation or check out Anthony Slater’s slow-mo tweet of the play. Iguodala was held out of practice yesterday, and as of right now, he’s listed as “questionable.” X-rays were taken and came back negative (which is good), so no bone bruise or anything serious. My guess is that he doesn’t play, but we’ll update this story as new information emerges.
One of the more interesting wrinkles here: what will this do to Steve Kerr’s rotation in Game 4? While the normal “Strength in Numbers” creed has been dropped a bit for this series, those players who are still getting minutes are doing quite well. Kevon Looney has been excellent in limited minutes and seems poised to step into a deeper, more meaningful role. As with all things basketball-related, there could be some synergy working here as well:
81.9 when Dray/Looney are on the court together, phew.— Justin Phan (@jphanned) May 21, 2018
Curry finally weaponized himself
While the Warriors have demonstrated that they can win without Curry, or even with some hobbled version of him, there’s something so absurdly overwhelming about this Warriors squad at full strength. Curry demonstrated this in game 3 on Sunday when he scored 18 points (on 7-7 shooting) in the first nine minutes of the third quarter.
It was a joyous, limitless explosion of everything that gives fans their brash confidence in this team. Curry was killing the Rockets with audacious laughter and I loved every single moment. This is indeed his “effing” house.
Houston has worked all series to deny him outside looks, and it’s worked — to a degree. Curry has often demonstrated the flexibility that makes his game so sneaky dangerous, but nowhere have I seen it as neatly summed up as in this Anthony Slater tidbit about Curry’s adjustments in taking what the defense is giving:
What has been a bit out of the ordinary is his production in and around the restricted area during this series. During the season, from less than 5 feet, Curry only attempted 3.6 shots and made 2.2 per game, according to NBA.com, a 63 percent conversion rate.
But in this series, he is now 19 of 24 from closer than 5 feet in this series. That’s 6.3 makes per game on 8 attempts at a 79 percent conversion rate, much higher accuracy on more than double the attempts.
And this is why many of us were incredulous that people were saying he was still hampered by injury; he has reliably been cooking defenders off the dribble, getting into the lane and finishing with ease. The Rockets have done an admirable job of taking away threes, but it’s basketball whack-a-mole with this guy, as he gets you in whatever way you’ve left open to him.
The Rockets are running out of options here
Ok, yeah, that one just counts as a single loss, but Game 3 was lopsided. That 41-point smackdown was the largest margin for a loss in Rockets playoff history and also the largest margin of victory in Warriors playoff history. Historic. This has to be troubling for Houston.
It’s a small sample, but three games deep into this series, some troubling patterns are beginning to emerge for the Rockets. Their stars aren’t adequately outplaying ours, and their most important role players haven’t been able to contribute much either.
In Game 3, Harden and Chris Paul combined for a paltry 33 points on 32 shots. Paul is shooting 25% from deep, Harden is better, but his 33% is hardly the stuff of legend as befitting the league’s presumed MVP. Clint Capela - touted as the Rockets X-factor - has been mostly absent, getting outplayed by Draymond Green, and possibly even Kevon Looney. And PJ “Tuck Wagon” Tucker? He was a minus 19 with 6 points and three fouls on Sunday.
Each and every one of those guys needs to not just play better, but play significantly better if the Rockets hope to keep their Championship dream alive. Remember, this is the team that blew the Warriors out in game 2, so they aren’t just going to quietly walk away and concede this series.
This last loss brings the Rockets to 0-7 in their playoff lives at Oracle arena, including four losses by double digits. This is the #1 seed, the team specifically built to beat the Warriors — and they got blown out by 41 points.
Sadly, I will not get to see a sweep in Oracle — but I’ll be in house for game 4. Steph and I share something in common, we both shine at Oracle, as per Marcus Thompson:
In four games on the road, Curry is averaging 19 points on 41.4 percent shooting, just 29 percent from 3. But at home in the postseason, he’s been dominant. In three home games in the playoffs, Curry is averaging 30.3 points on 57.4 percent shooting, making 13 from deep.
The Rockets are going to fight hard for this one, knowing that another loss would be catastrophic. But now that Curry has awakened, it may be too late for them already.
Warriors 117 - Rockets 108