After setting the NBA record with 73 wins in the 2015-16 season, a perfect 4-4-4-4 trip through the playoffs was certainly unlikely, especially with the San Antonio Spurs presumably meeting the Warriors in the Conference Finals. But it was in the realm of possibility. In the post-merger era no team has made it through the playoffs unscathed—only the 2000-01 Lakers came close, winning 12 straight before losing to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first game of the NBA Finals (the Lakers won the next four).
Last night, the Warriors were again without Steph Curry and, unlike in Game 2, struggled to find their rhythm, seeming weirdly out of sync for most of the game, and trailing by as much as 17 points. Klay Thompson was uncharacteristically cold from three, shooting 0-7, and the Warriors relied on (very talented, but still) bit players Mo Speights and Ian Clark to keep them in the game. (Shaun Livingston, another oft-overlooked Warrior was, as usual, quietly key.) It didn’t help that the Houston Rockets’ James Harden looked like the MVP candidate he was last season, finishing with a near triple double: 35 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds.
But the real story of the game was the last 14 seconds, which were bonkers. SB Nation’s Rodger Sherman has a great breakdown of the game’s goofy ending, which included a bodyslam, a James Harden game-winner, and Draymond Green dribbling the dang ball off his foot. The question going into Game 4 is if Steph Curry returns, or if the Warriors risk Houston evening the series. Either way, they’re not in trouble—the Rockets played out of their minds for most of the game, and it still took a series of lucky breaks for them to put this one away.