The Rockets picked apart the second-seeded Spurs, 125-104, to tie their Western Conference Semifinals series at two apiece. And while it was James Harden whose brilliance jolted Houston to leveling the playing field at home, Houston’s win was a microcosm of everything that has gone right for their fairytale season thus far.
Harden was so good, a knee injury couldn’t stop him. He banged knees with Patrick Mills in a frightening on-court incident that sucked the life out of the Toyota Center. He shook it off and returned for the same possession, drilling a heavily contested three over LaMarcus Aldridge’s outstretched arms.
It was just that kind of night for The Beard, who finished with 28 points on 10-of-18 shooting. Harden added on 12 assists, diming guys like Trevor Ariza (16 points), Ryan Anderson (13 points) and Patrick Beverley (10 points) all night-long.
“If we’re gonna have a chance in this series, they’ve gotta come up and make plays,” Harden said during his post-game interview, “and they did.”
The Rockets outscored the Spurs by 28 with their MVP on the floor, but he wasn’t the difference alone.
Houston dropped Game 3 in part from a lackluster effort from its bench, which put up just 10 points in that loss. Second unit scoring wasn’t an issue on Sunday, as Eric Gordon poured on 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting and Lou Williams chimed in with 13 of his own.
Together, Houston shot 53 percent from the field and 44 percent from downtown. The Spurs never stood a chance.
This is how good the Rockets have the potential to be.
Houston lives and dies by the three-point shot. The method by which they deal debilitating blows to their opponent is an area we’ve covered ad nauseam this season.
But threes don’t drop every night.
Anderson was 0-for-20 on playoff triples at home before he made three against the Spurs on Sunday. Harden made just 3-of-17 shots against San Antonio in Game 2, and Gordon’s poor shooting performance in Game 3 was one of the reasons Houston dropped a precious home game.
Performances like the one Houston put on on Sunday make those nightmarish nights vanish into thin air. The Rockets didn’t turn the ball over in the last 23 minutes and they played the free-flowing, perimeter-scorching brand of basketball that’s enamored basketball fans around the world.
Game 4 was an example of everything going right for Houston. And with the series swinging back to San Antonio for Game 5, the Rockets will need everything to go right on the road if they want to have a chance to close the series out at home.