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    James Harden, Rockets aren't out of the woods yet. Here's why

    May 5, 2019
    PHOTO: AP
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    CHICAGO - After consulting an eye doctor and vigorously getting treatments for a bruised retina he sustained in Game 2, it was very clear that James Harden could see clearly in Game 3.

    In Houston's 126-121 overtime home win at the Toyota Center. a narrow escape that saved the Rockets from falling down a 3-0 hole that no team in NBA playoffs history has ever climbed out of, Harden collected 41 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

    It was an impressive stat line. It was also misleading.

    Don't let the 41 points fool you. Harden was awful, making only 14 of 32 field goals. He was no Beard of Prey. He was more like a sneaky, lucky sparrow who got away with a charge and a made basket in the final 26.1 seconds of overtime.

    The Rockets salvaged Game 3 because Eric Gordon had 30 points, swishing 11 of 20 shots and seven of 14 triples.

    The Rockets are still alive in this Western Conference semifinals because they got a huge lift from unexpected places.

    Continue reading below ↓

    P.J. Tucker, 6-foot-6 in length but ten feet in grit and desire, gathered 12 rebounds, including five on the offensive end that gave Houston precious extra possessions.

    Iman Shumpert, a career 34 percent shooter beyond the arc, suddenly made 3-of-5 from long distance, an anomalous 60 percent.

    And Austin Rivers, a journeyman playing for his fifth team in nine NBA seasons, had a mini outburst of eight points, more than enough to spur the Rockets' bench in outscoring the Warriors reserves, 21-7.

    Nice game. Great effort.

    But we've read this book before. The plot twists and turns, making every page flip with anticipation, yet the ending never changes. The Warriors stay golden.

    If the Rockets think otherwise, they are only "self-deceiving," to borrow a line from Frank Sinatra's timeless classic Let Me Try Again,

    AND HERE'S WHY.

    The Rockets still have no answer for Kevin Durant.

    In three games thus far, the Slim Reaper has amassed 110 points while shooting 34 of 78 from the field and 10 of 19 from 3-point distance.

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    Durant, who is hitting 3s (52.6 percent) better than Clint Capela is hitting free throws (7-of-14 for 50 percent), can get any shot he wants. The so-called Rockets defense is at the tender mercy of this towering 7-foot sniper.

    The scariest thought, however, the consuming fear that will keep the Rockets awake at night until their season is mercifully over, is the fact that Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have not yet even decided to join this routine exercise on the way to their third straight title.

    Although they have 105 points between them through three games, Curry and Thompson have combined to nail just 37 of 98 field goals, a tepid 37.7 percent. And they've connected only 15 of 52 triples, a lousy 28.8 percent.

    I wish I can say the Rockets have something to do with his hiccup, but the Splash Brothers are simply missing shots they normally make.

    I have sobering news to all Rockets fans who got emotionally drunk with Game 3's outcome. The Curry-Thompson threat is a time bomb waiting to explode. Sorry that the timer is a just a little off, but trust me, the boom will come.

    Continue reading below ↓

    Tick. tick...tick...tick.

    Houston, you have a problem.

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    PHOTO: AP
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