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NBA playoff scores 2016: The Rockets won Game 3 just to piss us off

James Harden bailed out the Rockets after they blew a big lead to the Curry-less Warriors.

Of course the Rockets beat the Warriors in Game 3. All they've done is exasperate us all season, so, of course, they would make us suffer through watching one more game of their awful team.

Those would be impossible things to say a year ago, when the feisty Rockets surged back to beat Los Angeles and make the Western Conference Finals. That Houston team was weird, but it was a good kind of weird, back when Stephen Curry versus James Harden was a legitimate MVP debate. Now, the Rockets are just sad. They lost soundly to Golden State without Curry in Game 2 and blew a double-digit lead on Thursday before Harden's game-winning jumper bailed them out. Playoff teams are supposed to be dangerous. They should cause more panic facing a team missing their best player and soon-to-be MVP. Instead, the Rockets bench barely reacted when Harden nailed the go-ahead shot.

Look at that. LOOK AT THAT! That's the faces of players who want this season to be over and who can't believe they have to make yet another road trip. It's been well reported that Dwight Howard has no interest in returning to the Rockets next year, and that face shows exactly that. Houston is the foremost case study in teams that are talented but can't stand playing with each other. It feels like every game they did win this season, like Thursday's Game 3, was in spite of a total lack of cohesion and chemistry.

It still doesn't really make sense why the Rockets suck this year after succeeding last season, other than that they just don't try very hard. Howard has been worse, particularly as an offensive player, and the bench players that were so good last year haven't been nearly that this season. Harden's second half was very strong, but he showed up out of shape and set the NBA record for turnovers. All of those reasons are valid, but do they explain how a team that finished second in the Western Conference barely grabbed the No. 8 seed this time around? Maybe there isn't a good explanation.

Even Game 3 was a discouraging effort. As stated, the Rockets blew their double-digit lead from the third quarter. They let the Curry-less Warriors come back. They went behind for the first time since the first minute thanks to an Ian Clark floater. In fact, Clark hit four buckets in the fourth quarter, all huge shots in Golden State's near comeback. Houston almost went down as the team that lost the Ian Clark Game.

Harden hit the game-winner, and even then, the Rockets nearly threw the game way with this incredibly dangerous inbound pass. By the Rockets' sheer determination to force us to watch them one final time, Shaun Livingston did not intercept this pass and win the game on a walk-off dunk.

Good riddance to Houston. They won on Thursday and no one is happy, not even the team itself, it didn't seem. Something needs to change for the Rockets team to find new life, and now we all have to suffer through another game before that happens.

3 more things from Thursday

Durant's going to be just fine

No one was seriously concerned about Kevin Durant after his 7-of-33 shooting night on Monday -- but it still felt good for Durant to get that weight off his shoulders with a 34-point outing and 11-of-25 shooting.

"Now I know how fighters feel when they lose the fight and they know the rematch is coming, but it's a year later," Durant said. "That's how it felt for me."

Although overshadowed by Durant's career-worst evening, Russell Westbrook's Game 2 wasn't much better than Durant's. Like his co-star, Westbrook came to life, dropping 26 points on 9-of-16 shooting and an incredible 15 assists, while oddly not recording a single rebound.

Put Durant and Westbrook together, and anything can happen. That's why it's so hard to completely rule out Oklahoma City as having a chance to win the West, even when the Spurs or the Warriors are the obvious choice. Those two are in the top five or six in the NBA, something that happens so rarely on NBA teams. Even if the Thunder's playoff run ends next series, you have to give them a chance.

Toronto's demons are behind them, too

Unlike Durant, whose bad game was a statistical blip, the Raptors had real concerns after losing Game 1 to Indiana. Not again, murmured Torontonians, involuntarily flashing back to the fallen first-round series that the Raptors have been subjected in the past two seasons. This season was supposed to be different, as Toronto marched assertively to the No. 2 seed in the East, looking every bit like the second-best team for that conference. In a single loss, all those memories came flooding back.

After winning Game 2 with a bench-led lineup, Raptors fans were finally able to exhale. Now, they can breathe easy. Beating the Pacers in Game 3 returns home court advantage to Toronto and quiets fears of a first-round exit. After two awful games, DeMar DeRozan finally looked more like himself, scoring 21 points on 7-of-19 shooting and getting to the line nine times (going 7-of-9). It wasn't a terribly efficient evening for the Raptors' leading scorer, but it was a big step in the right direction after he was benched down the stretch of Game 2.

The Raptors' work clearly isn't done yet. They can't let up just because they salvaged their 0-1 series deficit. But this is how they can beat Indiana, limiting them to just three scorers in double figures and making Paul George work for his 25 points (6-of-19 shooting, four turnovers). After Game 1, everyone felt the murmurs, even the players. The truest test that this team was different is that they have been able to overcome those.

These playoff series are getting chippy

It always happens right around Game 3 or 4, especially in the first round, when one team is clearly better than the other. But whether it was Raymond Felton scrappin' with Steven Adams or Andrew Bogut's very dirty arm hook against Dwight Howard or Draymond's body slam on Beasley, you can feel the physicality ramping up on the court. You can see these guys giving an extra bump here and there! We'll see if any of it boils over.

Play of the night

Why is James Harden so good at basketball when the rest of his team sucks so bad? When will the crippling weight of lifting up an entire team break him?

2 fun things

Westbrook blocked a Dirk dunk attempt. That was very rude of him.


Final scores

Thunder 131, Mavericks 102 (Welcome to Loud City recapMavs Moneyball recap)

Raptors 101, Pacers 85 (Raptors HQ recapIndy Cornrows recap)

Rockets 97, Warriors 96 (The Dream Shake recapGolden State of Mind recap)

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Not So Secret Weapon: Nobody can stop the Warriors' deadliest play

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