There was just one game the slate Saturday night, but it certainly provided plenty of entertainment and drama. The Rockets desperately needed a victory to avoid falling into an insurmountable 0-3 hole against the mighty Warriors. Houston needed overtime to get it done, but they were able to keep their season alive by beating the Warriors in Game 3.
Follow Tommy Beer on Twitter: @TommyBeer
Houston Rockets 126, Golden State Warriors 121
Coming into the contest, there were questions as to whether James Harden would be effective, as he was dealing with blurry vision due an inadvertent eye poke from Draymond Green in Game 2. Well, Harden's eyes were red and irritated, but that didn't stop him from flexing his MVP muscles in this matchup. The Beard finished with 41 points (14-of-32 FGs, 8-of-8 FTs), nine rebounds, six assists, one steal and five 3-pointers in 45 minutes. Coach Mike D'Antoni said before the game that he planned on playing his starters extended minutes, and he did just that.
Eric Gordon also played a crucial role in the Rockets victory, scoring a playoff career-high 30 points (on 11-of-20 shooting) with two rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block, five turnovers and seven 3-pointers in 45 minutes. Gordon was the only other Rocket to score more than 14 points, and they needed everything he brought to the table in this one. Clint Capela double-doubled his way to 13 points (6-of-9 FGs) and 13 rebounds to go along with an assist, a block and a steal. P.J. Tucker was only 3-of-9 from the floor, but he supplied his typically excellent defense (including two blocks) and ripped down a game-high 12 boards. Both Capela and Tucker had five offensive rebounds apiece. The Rockets work on the offensive glass was an essential factor in the win.
Chris Paul shot 4-for-8 from the floor and 5-of-6 from the stripe en route to 14 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, one steal, one blocks and two turnovers. Surprisingly, Iman Shumpert supplied some much-welcomed offense off the bench. Shump canned his first three 3-pointers and ended up with ten points and two boards. Austin Rivers also knocked down a couple of big jumpers, scoring eight points on 3-of-6 shooting with four rebounds, one block and two 3-pointers in 28 minutes. On the Warriors final offensive possession, he got walloped by a Draymond Green screen and fell to the floor. He had to be helped to his feet a few minutes after the final buzzer sounded and looked woozy. Coach D'Antoni said that he'd be fine for Game 4, but Rivers will likely have to pass a concussion test to make sure he is good to go. Danuel House (foot) did not see the floor at all on Saturday, and coach Mike D'Antoni said that House was unavailable because his foot is "messed up." It turns out he is dealing with an irritation between the toes on his right foot; however, he is expected to be available to play on Monday.
Game 3 may go down as arguably the worst game of Stephen Curry's storied career. Curry shot 7-of-23 from the field (including a missed dunk in the closing moments to seal Golden State's fate) and 1-of-3 from the free-throw line, finishing with 17 points, three rebounds, four assists, two steals and two 3-pointers in 45 minutes. Just how surprising was this inefficient production? Consider this: Including the regular season and the playoffs, Curry has played in 793 NBA games. Saturday night was the first time in his career he attempted more than 22 shots and scored fewer than 18 points. It's also the first time he's shot below 35 percent from the floor and the charity stripe in a playoff game. Over the Warriors last six games, dating back to the Clipper series, Curry is shooting an uncharacteristically poor 38.3 percent from the floor and 29.4 percent from downtown. Klay Thompson also struggled with his shot on Saturday, converting just six of his 16 field goal attempts for 16 points, eight rebounds, two assists, three steals and two treys.
On the flip side, Kevin Durant did everything he could to keep the Warriors close. He pumped in 46 points (14-of-31 FGs, 12-of-12 FTs) with three rebounds, six assists and six 3-pointers in 50 minutes. Over the first three games of this series, KD is averaging 36.7 points. He has scored 110 points on 78 FG attempts, while Curry and Klay have a combined 105 points on 98 FG attempts. Draymond Green had a spectacular Game 3 as well, posting his second triple-double of the postseason with 19 points (6-of-10 FGs, 6-of-8 FTs), 11 rebounds, ten assists, two blocks and one 3-pointer in 45 minutes against the Rockets on Saturday. Interestingly, Saturday night was the first time the Warriors ever lost a game in which Green recorded a triple-double. They have been 27-0 in his career in games in which he posted a trip-dub. Andre Iguodala also played well in Game 3, tallying 16 points (6-of-9 FGs), five boards, three dimes, one steal, and three blocks.
Over the previous two seasons, the Warriors went 32-6 in the playoffs. They are 6-3 this postseason. Game 4 on Monday night is now must-see TV.
Toronto Raptors at Philadelphia 76ers
3:30 pm EST on ABC
This is essentially a must-win game for the Raptors as they hope to avoid going down 3-1 and, unfortunately, they got some bad news on Saturday. Pascal Siakam was listed as doubtful on the injury report due to a right calf contusion. It's a new injury, and it's believed he may have sustained it when he kicked out his leg to trip Joel Embiid in the third quarter of Game 3.
Outside of Kawhi Leonard, Siakam has been the only player consistently providing the Raps with some punch on the offensive end. The third-year forward has been one of the league's breakout stars this postseason. With Siakam on the floor, Toronto is averaging 106.8 points per 100 possessions. With him on the bench, they are averaging just 78.1 points per 100 possessions. He's averaging 23.3 points (on 50.9 percent shooting), 5.7 rebounds and 1.7 steals in 36.3 minutes through the first three games of this series. Leonard and Siakam are the only Raptors averaging more 12 points or shooting above 37 percent from the floor vs. Philly.
If Siakam is ruled out, coach Nick Nurse will have to mix and match some unconventional lineups. Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell, who have both struggled, would likely see the most significant uptick in minutes. Patrick McCaw and Jodie Meeks might see extra playing time as well. Jeremy Lin (back spasms), who did not play on Thursday, is listed as questionable. Nurse also hinted that a "new player would likely be introduced into the series" if Siakam is unable to suit up. Could former Holy Cross Crusader Malcolm Miller or Eric Moreland be asked to step in and step up?
One thing is for sure, the Raptors will require a Herculean effort from Kawhi, and they desperately need point guard Kyle Lowry to reassert himself as a factor. Lowry has historically struggled in the postseason, and this year has been no different, as he's averaging just 11.6 points on 40 percent shooting. In the three games vs. Philly, Lowry is shooting a putrid 35 percent from the field, including 14 percent from downtown.
Denver Nuggets at Portland Trail Blazers
7:00 pm EST on TNT
Less than 42 hours after their epic, thrilling quadruple-overtime, three-hour, 35-minute classic on Friday night (that leaked into Saturday morning), the Blazers and Nuggets will be right back in action on Sunday evening. Both teams will obviously be exhausted, particularly the Nuggets, who completed their seven-game series with the Spurs earlier in the week
Incredibly, Denver center Nikola Jokic, who is often playfully chided for his "dad bod" physique, logged a mind-boggling 65 minutes in Game 3. In that hour-plus of court time, he recorded a monstrous triple-double: 33 points, 18 rebounds, 14 assists, one steal, two blocks and four 3-pointers. He joined Wilt Chamberlain (1966-67) as just the second player in league history to average at least 20 points, ten rebounds and nine assists over the first ten games of a postseason. Jamal Murray battled through his thigh injury for 55 minutes and tallied 34 points with nine rebounds, five assists, one steal and four triples.
For the Blazers, C.J. McCollum led the way by pouring in a playoff career-high 41 points on 16-of-39 shots with eight rebounds, four assists, four steals, one block and four triples in 60 minutes. Enes Kanter racked up 18 points, 15 rebounds, three steals and a block. Yet, after the game, he told reporters he re-separated his left shoulder in the first overtime and also injured his right bursa. However, Kanter is not listed on the injury report ahead of Game 4.
It may be a bit sloppy on Sunday, considering the extenuating circumstances both teams will be dealing with. However, there is no denying the importance of the contest, as the Nuggets season may be on the line. It will not be an easy task. The Blazers have won 12 straight games at home this season. Over the last three months (dating back to February 5th), they have lost only one home game. Their last two wins in Portland were Lillard's 50-point/buzzer-beater to sink OKC and Friday night's epic quadruple overtime.