NBA Playoffs 2019: Rockets' comeback window still open, but it could close quickly against Warriors' star-studded lineup

Houston gave themselves a chance with a win in Game 3 of their best-of-seven series with Golden State
by Reid Forgrave

If the Houston Rockets hadn’t pulled off their 126-121 overtime victory Saturday night in Game 3 of their playoff series against the Golden State Warriors, there would have been an easy conclusion to come to about the James Harden-Chris Paul era of Rockets basketball:

Their championship window had closed on May 28, 2018, when the Rockets missed 27 3-pointers in a row en route to losing the Western Conference Finals after holding a 3-2 lead.

Now, thanks to a 41-point game from James Harden and a 30-point game from Eric Gordon that might have been the finest performance of his career, the Rockets live to fight another day against the greatest basketball dynasty since Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.

Would anyone of sane mind think the Rockets’ momentum from their Game 3 win makes them the favorite in this series? Of course not. Theirs is still an uphill slog. Things have to go right for the Rockets, and things have to go wrong for the Warriors, in order for the Rockets to have a chance in this seven-game series.

But do they have a chance?

Absolutely.

The Rockets were able to weather another incandescent game from Kevin Durant. Durant’s 46 points again helped him stake his claim that, in the first season LeBron James hasn’t made the playoffs since 2005, it may be Durant who is now the best player on earth.

The same cannot be said for Durant’s All-Star backcourt of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Thompson drifted all game before finally coming alive during the Warriors’ fourth-quarter comeback, but his game was still disappointing: 16 points on 16 shots. Steph Curry’s game was even more disappointing. Curry scored 17 points on 23 shots, making only 2 of his 9 3-point attempts. Perhaps from lingering effects from his dislocated finger earlier in the series, perhaps just because it wasn’t his night, he never seemed to catch a rhythm. The missed dunk he had in the waning seconds of overtime seemed to symbolize the game that he had. The Warriors played well enough to win – Draymond Green, who had a triple-double, was again the energetic leader that sets the Warriors’ tone, and Andre Iguodala once again drank from the fountain of youth – but ultimately two of their three biggest stars fell short.

The biggest question now: Can the Rockets really pull this off?

They say it’s not a series until the road team wins a game. And a road team hasn’t won a game yet between these two. The Rockets will always be the less-talented team in a matchup with the Warriors, but the Rockets’ bench outplaying the Warriors’ bench has a chance to be a difference-maker in this seven-game series. Austin Rivers and Iman Shumpert came off the bench to give the Rockets exactly what they needed: 18 points on 6 of 11 3-point shooting.

They’ve played the graphic enough during telecasts that you probably have it memorized by this point: Teams that go down 0-2 in a seven-game series have won 20 series in NBA history out of a total of 282. That’s a winning percentage of seven percent.

The odds are still stacked against the Rockets. They still need to win three games before the greatest team of this generation wins two. Chris Paul hasn’t looked great this entire season, and he isn’t getting any younger. The time is now for the Rockets. They can’t afford any missteps. But the Rockets certainly can do it. And on Saturday they got one step closer. Their championship window hasn’t closed. Not quite yet.

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