James Harden bounced back from an awful 3-of-16 shooting performance and just 17 points in Game 3 in Saturday’s loss to hit 13-of-22 shots, 7-of-11 3-pointers and 12-of-13 free throws for a playoff career-high 45 points to go along with nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks in Monday’s 128-115 win over the Warriors to stay alive in the Western Conference Finals. Harden now knows that the Rockets can’t win against GSW unless he goes bonkers, so look for more fireworks from him in Game 5.
The Warriors were down big for most of the game, but somehow made a late run after Stephen Curry returned from a nasty fall in the third quarter. They cut the lead to just six points with 8:30 remaining in the game and a Leandro Barbosa three attempt would have cut the lead to three. However, Barbosa missed the shot and Harden scored the next seven points to fight off the Dubs’ threat. The Warriors went to a Hack-a-Josh-Smith strategy, which was working, as he hit just 3-of-12 free throws on the night. But the Warriors were never able to get closer than six points, and the Rockets easily put the game away in the fourth quarter.
As for Curry’s fall, he said after the game he was “in shock” from it, and a stretcher was even brought out to take him off the court. He didn’t need the stretcher and was able to walk off under his own power, and he sounds very confident that he’ll be ready to go for Wednesday’s Game 5 back in Oakland, which is great news. He landed on his head (contusion), neck, shoulders and back, and the way his right arm was briefly pinned under his body was another concern. After shooting an air ball on his first attempt after returning with 5:58 left in the third quarter, he quickly got hot and was able to finish with 23 points and four assists, hitting 7-of-18 shots and 6-of-13 3-pointers in the loss. As of now, it should be safe to plan on using Curry on Wednesday, as the Warriors look to turn their 3-1 lead into a 4-1 victory. He passed the concussion protocols last night, but could be the recipient of more tests on Tuesday.
For the Rockets, Josh Smith was on fire early and hit 7-of-8 shots and 3-of-4 3-pointers to finish with 20 points, six rebounds, five assists and two blocks. As usual, that wasn’t the end of the story with Smoove, as he also committed six turnovers and hit just 3-of-12 free throws as the Hack-a-Smoove was on. But it didn’t matter last night, as the Rockets were able to stay alive and win easily in the end to see another day.
Trevor Ariza added 17 points, five boards, three assists, two steals, a block and three 3-pointers, Dwight Howard had 14 points, 12 boards, two steals and two blocks, and Terrence Jones came off the bench for 14 points, five rebounds, two blocks and a 3-pointer in the win. Jason Terry also played very well, scoring 10 points with six rebounds, four assists, a steal and two 3-pointers in 31 minutes.
Howard was called for a Flagrant 1 for an elbow to the face of Andrew Bogut and it’s possible the league will review the play. It’s entirely possible it could be upgraded to a Flagrant 2, so you’ll want to watch for news on that on Tuesday. He would be suspended for Game 5 if it were upgraded to a Flagrant 2.
The Warriors got 24 points, six 3-pointers and two steals from Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green came through with 21 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, five blocks and two 3-pointers on 9-of-14 shooting before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Obviously, the fantasy future of this kid is going to be fun to watch, and his stock is still rising as the Warriors prepare to make a run at a title. Harrison Barnes started and had 14 points, five boards, three assists, a steal and two 3-pointers, and while Bogut failed to score, he did have eight rebounds, four assists and a block in 21 minutes. He didn’t play much at all in the second half, as the Warriors went small in an attempt to shoot their way back into the game. Andre Iguodala was highly effective with 13 points, seven rebounds, two assists, three steals, three blocks and two 3-pointers in 26 minutes, and Barbosa hit 5-of-10 shots and two 3-pointers for 12 points, two rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes off the bench. Had his 3-pointer gone down 8.5 minutes remaining, we might be talking about him as a hero, instead of an afterthought.
The Rockets were 0-7 vs. the Warriors coming into the game, but finally got their first win of the season against them tonight. Houston scored 45 points in the first quarter, tying a playoff record. They were also up 22 when Curry left with after his fall in the second quarter.
The teams combined for an NBA-record 37 3-pointers in a playoff game and it was also the first time that both teams hit 15 3-pointers a game.
Game 5 is back in Oakland on Wednesday night, with the Warriors holding a 3-1 lead. No team in NBA history has ever come back in a playoff series after trailing 3-0.
Marreese Speights appears to be close to returning from a calf injury, and could be available for Game 5 on Wednesday.
News and Notes
Kyrie Irving will be a game-time decision for Tuesday night against the Hawks due to his lingering knee injury. With the Cavs holding a commanding 3-0 lead and the game at home, I’d be a little surprised to see Irving out there tonight, which means another heavy dose of Matthew Dellavedova. Then again, I didn’t think DeMarre Carroll would be playing through his knee injury, either.
LeBron James is banged up, and even motioned to come out of Sunday’s game before changing his mind, but I don’t see any scenario where he doesn’t play a full stack of minutes on Tuesday in hopes of closing out the Hawks. The Finals don’t start until June 4, so if the Cavs can end the series on Tuesday (May 26), the King will have plenty of time to rest (along with Kyrie Irving).
Kyle Korver may or may not need surgery on his ankle. If he does opt for surgery, he could miss four to six months and the start of next season, but he’s evaluating his options and getting second opinions. Either way, he’s done for the playoffs and Kent Bazemore if the guy you want to run out there in his place.
Paul Pierce may opt out with the Wizards and sign with the Clippers. That would reunite him with Coach Doc Rivers and give the Clippers an experienced veteran for the locker room, which they could use.
Enjoy Game 4 of the Cavaliers-Hawks tonight, and get ready to say goodbye to the daily fantasy basketball season. The end is growing near, but it was fun, right?