James Harden felt closer to normal after struggling in his first game back from a hamstring injury, and the Houston Rockets got a big game from Chris Paul to down the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night. The Warriors’ opponents in the last three NBA Finals have much bigger problems, however: the Cavaliers put in a terrible defensive performance as they lost 148-124 to the Oklahoma City Thunder. They are 3-9 since Christmas Day.
In Houston, Paul scored 33 points with 11 rebounds, Harden bested Stephen Curry twice in the final seconds and the Rockets held off the Warriors 116-108 to snap their 14-game road winning streak.
The victory gives Houston a 2-1 series advantage over Golden State after the reigning NBA champions had won the series the previous three seasons.
Harden’s team-mate Clint Capela went further. He told ESPN that he thinks the Rockets are a superior side. “I think that if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do on defense – all the switches, the weak side – and keep playing our offense by keeping that mentality all game long, we have the weapons to beat them. We are better than them.”
Meanwhile, LeBron James said the Cavs would be lucky to reach the Finals again if they carry on their dreadful form. “Playoffs? We can’t even start thinking about that, not the way we’re playing right now,” James said after the game. “We could easily get bounced early in the playoffs if they started next weekend. Haven’t even began thinking about the postseason.”
He added that Cleveland’s defense had stooped to new lows. “I’ve never in my basketball life gave up 148 points, not even probably playing video games,” James said. “They got everything that they wanted. Inside, outside – they had it moving. … It’s just a really bad, really bad loss on our part.”