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Harden's 35 sends Rockets past Warriors in Game 3

The Beard went Beard and also drained the game winner in the closing seconds.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It was almost another vintage Rockets collapse. You've seen it many times this season. Houston blew a 17-point lead and were down to the Golden State Warriors by 1 point with under 10-seconds left.

But with the Rockets teetering on the brink, in one of the most clutch playoff moments of his career to this point, James Harden cashed a turnaround jumper over Andre Iguodala with just 2.7 seconds remaining in the game, his 35th point of the night.

On the ensuing play, in a moment fitting of my own personal dislike for his consistent obnoxious behavior, Draymond Green bounced the ball off his own foot and out of bounds, sending the Rockets to a 97-96 victory over the Warriors in Game 3.

Harden answered my request earlier this evening for a vintage Beard performance by adding 9 assists, 8 rebounds, and 2 steals to his 35 points, and it was Harden's offensive brilliance combined with his surprisingly spirited effort on the defensive end that sparked this Rockets victory.

We also caught a glimpse of Playoff Dwight, as Dwight Howard went for 13 points, 13 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots and set the tone for the Houston win by scoring 9 of those points in the first half, including 6 off of thunderous alley-oops from Harden. Howard was significantly better tonight than in Game 2 despite going just 1-6 from line, including two Hack-a-Dwight misses down the stretch that could have turned out costly.

Houston's bigs ground down the Warriors inside, as Donatas Motiejunas also double-doubled, scoring 14 points and grabbing 13 rebounds to go along with a block. The Rockets' ability to push the ball inside led to a 46-36 advantage in points in the paint, and it was one of the difference makers in this Houston victory.

The rest of the hustle stats also favored Houston, who played with an intensity and desperation we had yet to see in this postseason. The Rockets also won the rebounding battle 52-43 and also had more second chance points (16-5) and more fast break points (11-10).

Only some poor Houston shooting in the fourth period, when they went 6-19 from the field, kept this game from being a possible blowout. Credit the Dubs, however, who fought back behind Shaun Livingston (16 points), Marreese Speights (22 points off the bench in a new career playoff high), and the unheralded Ian Clark, who scored 11 points, including 7 during the Warriors' fourth-quarter comeback attempt.

The Rockets also received 12 points from Michael Beasley, who played 20 key minutes off the bench, and 10 from Patrick Beverley, who battled cramps, strains, and sprains all night to still score 10 points and play 33 minutes in an inspired effort.

Of course, in typical Rockets-hate fashion, the most popular Vine trending on Twitter isn't the sugar sweet clutch step back from The Beard that won the game for Houston, it's the armchair psycho-analyzation of D-12's facial expressions on the sideline while it was happening.

Well, at least now we know what the next bit of Houston condescension that's been disgustingly overly pervasive in this series will be. The Rockets can't be criticized for losing tonight. Howard and Harden can't be criticized for playing poorly tonight. No one on the Rockets can be criticized for playing poor defense after a solid performance that held the Dubs to 96 points, 43 percent shooting, and 14 turnovers.

If there was ever any doubt whether or not the Rockets were the most despised team in the NBA, doubt no longer, because this is now what the Rockets are being taken to task for.

Anyway, it's now a 2-1 series, with Game 4 in Houston on Sunday. Expect Steph Curry back in the lineup with the series in danger of being knotted up. And let's hope the Rockets keep rolling with my pre-series prediction for at least one more game.

Much-needed win for the Rockets, their fans, and the city of Houston.