OAKLAND, Calif. -- After each team showcased both its best and worst selves in Games 1 and 2, a homecoming to Oakland in Game 3 signaled a return to normality for the Golden State Warriors as they defeated the Houston Rockets 126-85 on Sunday. The Warriors now lead the Western Conference finals 2-1.
Golden State displayed its usual combination of run-outs in transition, pretty split sets and swinging passes in the half court, and heavy quantities of Kevin Durant.
Most important, the Warriors welcomed the arrival of two-time MVP Stephen Curry, who exploded for 18 points in the third quarter, during which he went a perfect 7-for-7 from the field. He finished with a game-high with 35 points on 13-for-23 shooting from the field, including 5-for-12 from beyond the 3-point arc (though 4-for-5 following halftime).
Curry's offensive game was also the object of intense focus in Game 3. He entered the series struggling with his long-range shot, having converted only two of his 13 attempts from behind the 3-point line during the pair of games in Houston -- struggles that continued into the first half of Game 3 (1-for-7 on 3-point attempts).
But midway through the third quarter Sunday evening, Curry assembled his finest exhibition of basketball of the postseason. In less than three minutes, he drained five shots. The sequence, which stretched a 15-point Warriors lead to 24, was capped by a long 3-pointer that sent him shimmying down the floor, followed by a beautiful floater in traffic on the ensuing possession after showing off his handles.
While Curry labored to find his shot in the first half, Durant sustained the Warriors' attack. The Rockets simply didn't have an answer for Durant, who ignited the Warriors in transition, knifed his way to the rack at will, as well as posted up and shot over Houston's smaller defenders. He scored 25 points on 9-for-19 shooting from the field, including 3-for-8 from 3-point range.
Though he scored only 10 points on 3-for-9 shooting from the field, Draymond Green excelled in his essential role as the fulcrum of the Warriors' offense, dishing out six assists, collecting 17 rebounds and playing defensive rover. Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala chipped in 13 and 10 points, respectively.
The Rockets manufactured their own selection of high-percentage shots but left a lot of money on the table. Houston simply could not finish around the basket, particularly in the first half, when the Rockets missed 12 shots at point-blank range.
Houston didn't receive its usual production from James Harden and Chris Paul. Harden never found a rhythm and finished with a modest 20 points on 7-for-16 shooting and four turnovers, while Paul shot 5-for-16 from the floor, with only four assists -- but 10 rebounds.
The Rockets continued their well-worn strategy in this series of manipulating the Golden State defense in an effort to draw Curry in the Warriors' switching scheme. Curry stood up to the pressure reasonably well, as the Rockets weren't terribly efficient on those possessions, converting 7 of 14 shots when Curry was the primary defender, with one turnover and zero trips to the line.
Earlier in the series, when he couldn't find the bottom of the basket, Curry was encouraged by Steve Kerr. The Warriors coach told him the floodgates would open in this series. In Game 3, the prophecy came true, as the waters of the San Francisco Bay found their way into Oracle Arena.