HOUSTON – Kevin Durant walked off the court, animated and unwavering, after the Golden State Warriors’ 126-121 overtime loss to the Houston Rockets in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals.
Right before he stepped inside the locker room, he shouted, “F--- it. Let’s go [on Monday].”
Durant, who scored a game-high 46 points to go with six assists, wasn’t concerned with the loss as the Rockets got their first win of the series Saturday night.
Twenty-five minutes after the visiting locker room opened to the media, the atmosphere was unusually lighthearted and upbeat. Durant and Draymond Green were in good spirits — all smiles and engaged in conversations about the game.
The vibe was that of a meaningless regular-season loss in mid-January.
“You watched that game, didn’t you?” Green told Yahoo Sports, after registering a triple-double of 19 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. “OK, then. We’ll be just fine.”
Yet, the Warriors persisted despite a less-than-stellar game from Stephen Curry, who was nursing an injured finger.
The Warriors’ point guard was riding a stationary bike as he scrolled through his phone. Curry didn’t care to talk and wasn’t in the mood to socialize.
He had just endured arguably the worst playoff performance of his career. The two-time MVP missed 16 of his 23 shots and finished with 17 points, missed two of his three free-throw attempts, missed point-blank layups, was 2 of 9 from long distance, was one personal foul away from fouling out and turned the ball over three times in 44 minutes.
After 15 or so minutes on the bike, he walked slowly to his locker stall and just sat there in full uniform. Most of his teammates had already showered, dressed and exited the arena.
Curry sat at his stall, staring into space and staring at the ground. And then he focused his attention on his middle finger, the finger on his left hand he dislocated in Game 2. The finger was discolored and he began rubbing it and massaging it for a few minutes before finally heading to the showers. Still, he wouldn’t use it as an excuse.
“I just got to make those [shots],” he said at his postgame news conference. “If I’m out there playing, I’ve got to produce and it just didn’t happen tonight.”
Curry’s most out-of-character blunder occurred with 20 seconds remaining in the game with the Warriors down by five. Curry dribbled up the court and split a double-team with nobody between him and the basket.
Instead of laying it in and cutting the margin to three, he tried to dunk the ball and ended up getting hung on the right side of the rim. James Harden gathered the rebound, and the Warriors elected not to foul and allowed the clock to run out.
“Because I was feeling pretty good and had a nice head of steam,” Curry said about going for a dunk. “Probably a little bit of frustration, too, with how the rest of the night went. Not my finest moment.”
Harden — who was playing with a lacerated left eyelid — had 41 points with nine boards and six assists. Despite his eye still being red, he anchored his team.
“Nope. I’m good,” Harden said when asked about his eye. “I can see.”
But as soon as his postgame presser concluded, he walked in the corridors of the arena and took a seat as a team physician proceeded to administer eye drops. Harden is receiving treatment daily — treatment that is expected to continue through the postseason run.
“He had 41 points tonight and he did a good job of being crafty, and it was a good chess game,” said Warriors wing Andre Iguodala, Harden’s primary defender. “He made some really tough shots. … We just have to make it hard as possible for him.”
Through it all, the Warriors don’t appear worried that they gave life to a team that was struggling. The Rockets were well aware that no team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, and they responded appropriately.
“It’s a must-win game for us,” said Rockets forward PJ Tucker. “Every game is a must-win for us.”
Game 4 is on Monday, and the Warriors are confident they’ll be in good spirits when the series shifts back to the Bay Area for Game 5. But before hopping back on a plane, there’s some work that needs to be accomplished in Houston.
“We didn’t get 50-50 balls down the stretch,” Green said. “We gave up a couple of offensive rebounds in overtime and that was really the difference in overtime. When you’re on the road and trying to win a playoff game, you have to come up with those. That was pretty much the tale of the game. … We just have to clean those little things up, and we all like where we are at.”
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