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Warriors at Rockets Game 3 Preview: Put up or shut up time.

A pivotal game three is essentially a must-win game for Houston.

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Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors - Game Two
A third splash brother has emerged, slim and deadly

After holding home court advantage, the Golden State Warriors are headed into Houston to take on a Rockets team that essentially needs to win this game. The Warriors focus has varied throughout the season, but with two games under their belt, you know they are internally eyeing the sweep.

The Rockets have been close, even while dealing with a bizarre eye poking injury to their biggest star and some fake math stolen points from the referees. After dislocating a finger on his non-shooting hand in game two, Stephen Curry will be playing through this with two of his fingers taped to together.

Game Details

When: Saturday May 4th, 2019 at 5:30pm PST

Where: Toyota Center — Houston, Texas

TV: ABC

Line: Rockets -4, o/u 221.5

Injuries: James Harden (eye) is probable and Terrence Jones (illness) is out for the Rockets.

DeMarcus Cousins (quadricep) and Damian Jones (pectoral) are out for the Warriors.

Reckoning with the post season Warriors

Andre Iguodala leads the league in 2019 post season dunks so far and is generally playing better in every category as compared to his regular season. As he has in the past, Iguodala has been the sharp point of the Warriors stiffening defense.

As per Shane Young, Iguodala has served as the primary defender on 72 of Harden’s possessions, conceding just 18 points directly to Harden and holding the team to an offensive rating of 94.4 points per 100 possessions. While his high scoring output may be the leading talking point, it’s the improved defense that deserves more attention. Making Harden an inefficient scorer is doubly important given the high reliance D’Antoni’s scheme places on one man.

But about those dunks: a fair number are from Draymond Green as the primary ball handler. Serving as the relief outlet from trapping defenses, he’s driving and finishing the play as required — whether it be a floater, a dump pass or an alley oop. Point Draymond, next to a rejuvenitaed Iguodala, is a problem for opposing teams. And it’s not just defense. From Anthony Slater’s deep dive article over at The Athletic: The Draymond Green screen, dive, catch and lob is destroying defenses:

Of Iguodala’s 19 dunks, 11 have been assisted. Of those 11 assisted slams, eight have come from Green, who has connected with Iguodala for 13 of his 35 made field goals in these playoffs.

Like Iguodala shutting down Harden, the Rockets are stifled to a lesser degree by the disappearance of Clint Capela. From The Dream Shake, you can see how absolutely disastrous this matchup has been so far in this series.

So far, in the 47 minutes that Capela and Green have shared the court, the Warriors have blitzed the Rockets by 43 points. In contrast, in the 13 minutes Capela’s played with Green sitting, the Rockets have outscored the Warriors by 7.

Harden’s eyeballs are going to be alright

Make no mistake, his eyeball is legitimately jacked up. But Harden finished game two with 29 points and had his highest field goal percentage of the postseason, despite missing his first three shots before suffering the injury. But it’s important to note that thankfully Harden should be mostly recovered from his eye injuries for game three.

Admittedly, even as I was less than convinced that the squinting wasn’t mostly theatrics, Chris Hayne reports that the Warriors were likewise dubious:

“They were talking about some of the shots he was shooting during the game, then he gets to the free-throw line and he’s squinting like he can’t see it”

Regardless, the reports are that he will be okay thankfully, but this will do nothing to temper rising tempers as the series swings into Houston for a decisive third game. If he really is healthy and able to see, the Warriors will be in for one of the toughest games of their playoff careers.

In the history of the NBA playoffs, less than a handful of teams have gone on to win the series after being down 0-3.

On the other hand, Golden State knows how dangerous it is to not close out a series when you can. Given the respect they have for this team, I expect the Warriors to come out as focused and fired up as we’ve seen them all season.

Prediction

In keeping with the made up math employed by the highly paid statistician of the Houston Rockets, I’m just going to extrapolate some reality. Warriors won game one by four points, game two by six points... Who’s covering Kevin Durant? Austin Rivers now? More of the guy who leads the team in turnover percentage? Nah.

So let’s say an eight point Warriors win on the road to seal the series.