NBA WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

Fred Faour: 5 quick thoughts on the Warriors' Game 3 rout of the Rockets

Steph Curry did not do much in the first two games, but he had plenty reason to smile Sunday night. Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Warriors took a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals with a 126-85 rout of the Rockets on Sunday night. None of the three games have been close. All three games have been decided relatively early, and the fourth quarter has been meaningless. (Hey, at least it ended in time to watch the Astros' 3-1 win over the Indians). The Rockets will look to do what they did after their bad Game 1 loss and bounce back to even the series. First however, a look at Game 3:

  1. When it was decided: The Rockets struggled in the first half and it proved costly. They managed to hang around early, but several missed layups and poor shooting led to a 11-point deficit (54-43) at halftime. The Warriors weren’t great, either, including 4 of 18 on 3s. But the Rockets scuttled along at 34.9 percent from the field and just 26.7 percent on 3s, and the real problem was nine turnovers to just four for the Warriors. The third quarter started with a 10-0 Warriors run that upped the lead to 21, and it eventually would get as high as 28. The Warriors outscored the Rockets 34-24 in the third quarter and that was that; the fourth quarter was basically garbage time.

  2. Still no answer for Durant: Kevin Durant has been the best player in this series, and he was solid again Sunday night. He scored 25 on 9 of 19 shooting and came up with several clutch plays when the game was still in doubt. The Rockets have not slowed him down yet, and until they figure something out, he will continue to be a handful.

  3. Curry up: Steph Curry has not been good in this series, and he was not great in the first half, starting just 2 for 13. But he cranked it up in the third quarter, starting with mostly layups and backdoor cuts, then he started hitting 3s, and the game just got ugly. He would finish with 35. If the Warriors are going to get great performances out of Durant and Curry, the Rockets have little chance.

  4. Meanwhile, the Rockets stars…: Chris Paul hit a few shots in the second half, but overall he was well below average and finished with 13 points on just 5 of 16 shooting. James Harden was not much better with 20 points. He was 1 of 5 on 3s when it counted, and 2 of 6 overall. The Rockets simply can’t compete unless at least one of those two plays outstanding basketball.

  5. The real killer: Turnovers. The Rockets finished with 19 to just eight for the Warriors, and Golden State converted those into 24 points. The turnover battle has been key in all three games. Both teams feed off the easy baskets and it helps get their offenses going. The Rockets did not protect the basketball, and it came back to haunt them.

The bottom line: You basically saw a repeat of Game 1, and now the Rockets will need a repeat of Game 2 to avoid going down 3-1, which would seem insurmountable. They need to clean up the turnovers and get better games from Paul and Harden, but another effort like Sunday will help hasten the end of the season.



 

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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