Warriors hand Rockets their Worst Playoff Loss in History in 126-85 win.
After a pretty disappointing loss in Game Two, the Golden State Warriors (9-3) took on the Houston Rockets (9-3) at home. The Warriors, having recaptured home-court advantage in Game One, were looking to win both their home games and capitalize on their advantage. The Warriors were 6-0 this postseason at Oracle Arena prior to tonight’s game, while the Rockets were 0-6 at Oracle Arena in the playoffs since 2015. Both the Warriors and the Rockets were using the same starting lineups, the Warriors with their “Hamptons 5” and the Rockets with their 50-5 lineup that included Chris Paul, PJ Tucker, and James Harden. The Warriors had not lost back-to-back games in the playoffs since 2016, and were looking to keep that streak alive behind a strong performance from the Splash Brothers. The Warriors went on to hand the Rockets their worst loss in playoff history, winning 126-85.
In the first quarter, the Houston Rockets were able to get off to a nice start thanks to poor defense from the Warriors and Stephen Curry. The Rockets tried to switch and get on Stephen Curry on nearly all of their possessions before the first time out, and that allowed for guys like Trevor Ariza and Clint Capela to get wide open below the hoop. The Rockets scored eight points on layups coming off those poor coverages by the Warriors. The Warriors were able to score on free throws from Draymond Green and a lay up from Andre Iguodala, but they couldn’t really get their rhythm going in the first couple minutes, and Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson did not get any shots. After the first timeout with 9:16 left in the quarter, the Rockets led the Warriors 8-4. Coming out of the timeout, Stephen Curry drained his first three of the game, which Klay Thompson followed up with a layup to take the lead. Kevin Durant then got a layup to fall in transition and Oracle was set ablaze following the Warriors quick 7-0 run. The Rockets then got five points on a lob to Capela and a three from Harden before Draymond Green hit a three. The Warriors looked like themselves for a couple minutes, but they then cooled off on offense and allowed the Rockets to retake the lead on a couple nice plays from Eric Gordon. The game was tied at 22 when Mike D’Antoni called the Rockets’ first time out with 2:46 left in the quarter. While the Warriors offense was sputtering a little bit because the three was not falling, Kevon Looney was incredible on defense, rejecting a dunk from Luc Richard MBah A Moute, among other things. Following the second timeout of the quarter, the Warriors were ready to ramp things back up again, even without Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry, or Draymond Green in the game. Durant went iso to drop in a bucket, and was fouled on another play, resulting in two made free throws. Andre Iguodala followed his own missed jumper and had a nice putback dunk to build the Warriors a 6-point lead. The Warriors were playing great defense as well to close out the quarter, and the quarter officially came to a close once Nick Young made a three with just under five seconds left to grab a nine-point lead for the Warriors heading to the second quarter. As a team, the Warriors shot 47.8% from the floor and 27.3% (3/11) from deep, while the Rockets were shooting 39.1% from the field and 20% (2/10) from three. Kevin Durant had eight points to lead the Warriors, with Andre Iguodala close behind with six points of his own. Kevon Looney had two blocks, which were huge for the Warriors. The Rockets wereld by Eric Gordon with eight points. After the first quarter, the Warriors led the Rockets 31-22.
The second quarter got started with a Shaun Livingston mid range jumper, as all quarters should. Both teams were going back-and-forth for the first couple minutes of the quarter, but the Warriors were playing harder than the Rockets. Shaun Livingston got a putback tip-in to fall, Klay Thompson got a second chance shot after a perfect tip from Draymond Green, and the Warriors were getting great defensive contributions from everyone, even Nick Young. The Rockets couldn’t get anything going outside of a Gerald Green three, which forced Mike D’Antoni to call a timeout with 9:17 left in the half and the Warriors leading 37-27. Following the timeout, the Warriors were able to keep rolling, scoring in every way imaginable, from Kevin Durant pull-up three to a Klay Thompson turnaround fadeaway jumper from the free throw line. More importantly though, the Warriors were still playing excellent defense, not allowing much scoring at all from the Rockets. The Warriors were using Jordan Bell in the rotation following a foul on Kevon Looney, but that lineup was long and mean, and it showed on the defense end. Steve Kerr called his first timouet of the quarter with 4:58 left in the half to get Stephen Curry back into the game, and the Warriors were leading 44-34. Following that timeout, the Warriors were able to continue to work on their lead with a cutting layup from Stephen Curry and two back-to-back buckets from Kevin Durant. The Rockets were able to stay in the same arena due to their ability to draw fouls. The Warriors were able to keep their lead though, despite the Rockets at one point cutting the lead to seven points, and despite a bailout call on a Harden three to close the half. As a team, the Warriors shot the ball at a 42.6% clip and were shooting 22.2% (4/18) from three. Meanwhile, the Rockets weren’t shooting any better, and in fact, were shooting a lot worse at 34.9% from the floor and 26.7% (4/15) from three. The leading scorer for the Warriors was Kevin Durant with 15 points, and Andre Iguodala was the next-highest scorer with 10 points. Stephen Curry had nine points, but was still struggling to find his shot, going 1/7 from three. The Rockets were led by James Harden with 11 points on 3/8 shooting, and Clint Capela nine points. Chris Paul seemed like he completely lost his jump shot, perhaps worse than Stephen Curry did, and had only three points on 1/7 shooting. The Warriors defense was great all half, picking up five steals and five blocks, while the Rockets committed nine turnovers to help the Warriors cause. At the half, the Warriors led the Rockets 54-43.
The third quarter started with an absolute avalanche from the Warriors, who went on a 10-0 run to start the half. Stephen Curry got it all started by getting an and-1 layup to fall, Kevin Durant then made a floater, Steph got another layup to fall before Kevin Durant nailed a corner three. The Warriors looked like they were ready to end the game and end it quickly. Their quick 10-0 run forced a timeout from Mike D’Antoni after just 1 minute and 52 seconds and the Warriors leading 64-43. The Warriors then thought the game ended after their 21-point lead heading into the timeout, but the Rockets did not. James Harden got a couple nice rolls, Clint Capela tipped in a bad shot, and Chris Paul got a mid-range jumper to fall over Stephen Curry as the Rockets cut the lead to 13 points as Steve Kerr called timeout with 7:05 left in the quarter. Following that timeout from Steve Kerr, the Warriors were re-awakened, largely due to the man who wears #30 on his jersey. Stephen Curry got two layups to fall before nailing a 30-footer. Klay Thompson then got a layup to fall before the Rockets called timeout to try and stop the bleeding with 4:34 left in the quarter and the Warriors leading by 19. This quarter belonged to Stephen Curry, as he went 7/7 from the field and had 18 points. He hit two threes, got to the rim with ease, and to put the cherry on top, he shimmied after a three, and yelled “this is my fucking house” after getting a layup to fall. He was incredible, as was the rest of the team. Kevin Durant was up to 25 points and hit a couple big shots for the Warriors as well. As a team, the Warriors shot 48.6% from the field and 33.3% (8/24) from three through three quarters, while the Rockets shot 39.1% from the floro and 29.2% (7/24) from three. The Rockets were led by James Harden who had 15, and Chris Paul was playing a nice second-fiddle with 13 of his own. After a classic third quarter, the Warriors led 88-67.
The Warriors came out in the fourth quarter and were doing a great job of cutting to the rim and getting easy shots, taking advantage of lackadaisical defense from Harden and Co. Shaun Livingston got a couple easy shots, and got two points after embarrassing James Harden with a crossover before dunking. Stephen Curry hit another three pointer early in the quarter, and it truly felt like the Warriors were back. They were playing great all-around basketball and led by 22-points at the time of the first timeout with 8:04 left in the game. The Warriors continued to bury the Rockets after the timeout. There was a small scuffle between Trevor Ariza and Draymond Green, and even though Draymond was barely involved and certainly had no intention to harm, he was given his third technical foul of the postseason (a $5,000 fine and suspension comes with tech #7). Stephen Curry hit another three, and the game was basically over. With 5:11 left in the game and the Warriors lead sitting at 29 points, Steve Kerr called timeout to put his subs into the game for garbage time. In garbage time, we were treated to incredible displays from Quinn Cook, who had 11 points in the last five minutes, and JaVale McGee who played like Hakeem Olajuwon while scoring four points. The Warriors ended the game with two free throws from Nick Young, which solidified a 41-point win, the worst loss in Houston Rockets playoff history. The Warriors finished the game shooting 52.2% from the floor, and 40.6% (13/32) from three. The Rockets shot a combined 40% from the floor and 32.4% (11/34) from three. Stephen Curry led all scorers with his 35 points, and James Harden led the Rockets with 20 points. The Golden State Warriors beat the Houston Rockets 126-85.
After many people, including myself, were concerned about Stephen Curry’s health and shooting performances in games one and two, he decided to break out at the perfect time. He lit up Oracle Arena in the third quarter, going 7/7 en route to 18 third quarter points. He hit four threes in the game, doubling his total from the first two games, and was simply incredible. When Stephen Curry is rolling and hitting shots in the playoffs, there is not much you can do to stop this Warrior team. On top of Steph’s game-high 35 points, Kevin Durant added 25 points of his own. On his own, Stephen Curry outscored the duo of James Harden and Chris Paul 35 to 33, but combined with KD, they outscored the Houston Rockets’ starters 60 to 58. That duo is truly unstoppable, perhaps unlike any dynamic duo that the league has ever seen.
Other Warriors stepped up as well, as Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala were incredible defensively all night. Klay scored 13 points on 6/14 shooting, and Andre had 10 on 4/6 shooting. Kevon Looney was huge off the bench, and played some of the best basketball of his entire life. He finished with four points, five rebounds, and two huge blocks. Draymond Green had 10 points, 17 rebounds, six assists, a steal, and a block. Shaun Livingston also had some huge plays off the bench and added nine points of his own. This was a top-to-bottom great performance from the Warriors, and they exploded in a huge win.
The Rockets were bad tonight, in fact, that might actually be an understatement. Not only were they bad, but they were outworked, outhustled, and outplayed by a team that won less games by them in the regular season (though that was a matter of circumstance and effort). James Harden did have 20 points, but he did so on 7/16 shooting, he turned the ball over four times, and was -19. Chris Paul had 13 points on 5/16 shooting, was -18, and most importantly, was clamped by Nick Young. Eric Gordon did not follow up his stellar game three, as most people expected, and he only scored 11 points on 4/13 shooting. He had the worst +/- on the team at -33. Gerald Green went 3/10, PJ Tucker went 3/5, and Trevor Ariza went 2/6. The Rockets were feeling the interior defensive presence of the Warriors, and they missed wide open layup after wide open layup. They were abysmal, looked dejected, and I would not be surprised to see them lose the next two games by a lot of points.
This win felt different for the Warriors. Their Game One win felt like it was extremely important, and it was, but this Game Three win felt like a demoralizing series-ender for the Rockets. The Warriors are here, and they are ready to end this season in an explosive fashion.
Game Four of the Western Conference Finals will be on Tuesday, May 22, in Oakland at 6 p.m. on TNT.