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Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors Game 3 preview

NBA: Playoffs-Utah Jazz at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets face a daunting task.

After two competitive but ultimately fruitless games in Oakland, Houston returns to the Toyota Center knowing that they must win Game 3 and 4 to have a shot at beating the defending champions.

In reality, dropping the first two games probably spelled doom for the Rockets, as both games were winnable. Now the Rockets have to win four out of five games against the best team in the NBA and a team has two separate players worthy of “M-V-P” chants.

The Warriors are unfair, but that’s life. Sure, we could talk about how Houston and everyone else is mostly praying for Kevin Durant to leave this summer since it’s the best chance at disrupting this dynasty. Still, let’s talk about the game itself.

To beat Golden State, there are a few keys to each game:

  1. Defend well. This is obviously the most important key. The Warriors can rip off 15-0 runs in the blink of an eye and it’s game over. Houston has kept Golden State’s shooters from getting into big grooves, but that could change in the coming games.
  2. Score a lot of points. Again, this is obvious. The Warriors have a great defense and four of the Hamptons Five are plus defenders. Three are elite, and Durant can reach that peak when he wants. Even Steph Curry isn’t an awful defender, but he’s the worst of the lot so he gets picked on the most. You know Golden State can score in bunches, and you have to be able to throw counterpunches back at them.
  3. No turnovers. Turnovers are death against the Warriors. They get dunks or open threes off them.
  4. Luck. You need balls to bounce your way and for calls to at least be even. This is a sensitive topic and I spoke about it in the Game 2 preview so I’ll refrain from rehashing it here. But suffice to say you need a fair whistle (or a friendlier one, frankly) to beat the Warriors. Also, you need to not have James Harden get poked in the eyes and deal with blurry vision for most of the game and beyond.

Honestly, if three of these things go your way, you’ve got a realistic shot at beating the champs. In Game 1, Houston shot poorly overall and got zero help from the zebras. They also had 16 turnovers, so really you could say they lost a close game despite three factors going against them. In Game 2, Houston shot much better and the refereeing crew was as close to flawless as possible, but the Rockets couldn’t finish defensive possessions with rebounds and turned the ball over 18 times. So far, the Rockets have defended shooters well, which means we’re due for a nasty regression game where Curry and/or Klay Thompson go 10-12 from deep.

Again, this is a must-win for the Rockets to keep any hope alive. I think the Warriors know that if they win this game, they’ll be home free and can start getting ready for the Western Conference Finals. You can take hope in the fact that Houston hasn’t been blown out and are probably the only team within shouting distance of the Warriors, but it’s still pretty clear that Golden State is head and shoulders above the rest of the league. I know, that’s the hottest take you’ve seen in minutes.

Tip-off is at 7:30pm CT on ABC