The Houston Rockets have had five opportunities this season to prove that they can beat the NBA’s best team, and they’ve failed every time. There’s little reason to think much will change when the No.8 seed in the West hosts the No.1 seed Golden State Warriors on Thursday night in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series.
After three convincing wins over the Rockets during their record-setting 73-win regular season, Golden State has beaten Houston by 35 total points in two postseason games. After dominating Game 1 at Oracle Arena, the Warriors won Game 2 by nine points without Stephen Curry. The Rockets might have a better chance as the series shifts to Houston, but they don’t seem to be good enough to steal even one game from the Warriors.
An ankle injury sidelined Curry for the fourth time this season, but Golden State still managed to score 115 points on Monday night.
"We've relied on our depth all year -- not just when Steph's out," Draymond Green said after Game 2. "I think we're the deepest team in the NBA."
It’d be hard to argue Green’s point, following Monday’s contest. He fell two assists shy of a triple-double, and Klay Thompson scored 34 points on 20 field-goal attempts. Golden State’s bench came up big, helping the Warriors pull away in the fourth quarter, leading by double-digits for much of the final period.
Andre Iguodala, who finished second in the voting for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award, scored 18 points on seven-of-10 shooting. Shawn Livingston started for the injured Curry, and he added six assists and 16 points on seven-of-nine shooting.
Curry’s injury didn’t appear to be serious after he scored 24 points in Game 1, but concerns grew when he sat out in Game 2. Favored to win his second straight MVP award, Curry underwent an MRI on his ankle Tuesday, and the team offered an optimistic update in a statement.
"Warriors guard Stephen Curry, who tweaked his right ankle during Saturday's Game 1 versus Houston and missed last night's Game 2 against the Rockets, underwent an MRI this afternoon in the Bay Area. The MRI did not reveal anything of concern and Curry is expected to continue treatment in preparation for Thursday's Game 3 in Houston. He is listed as questionable."
With a few more days to heal, Curry might be good to go for Game 3. But Golden State’s main concern is keeping their starting point guard healthy for an NBA Finals run, and they could choose to rest him in a series in which they are heavily favored.
Houston will look to take advantage if they can play a Curry-less Warriors team at home. The Rockets went 23-18 at Toyota Center, where they managed to upset the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. James Harden scored 41 points in a win over the Thunder just over two weeks ago, and he’ll need a similar performance if the Rockets want to win Game 3.
Harden’s defensive inefficiencies were on full display in Game 2, and Golden State’s backcourt continues to wreak havoc, with or without Curry. The Warriors’ starting guards are averaging 45 points on 28 shots per game in the series.
Houston is a 5.5-point underdog because of Curry’s injury, and the over/under is 217.5, via VegasInsider.com. Unless the Warriors have an uncharacteristically bad shooting night, they should find themselves one win away from a sweep.
Prediction: Golden State over Houston, 105-95