Harden, Rockets rout Spurs 125-104 to tie series

Harden, Rockets rout Spurs 125-104 to tie series

Cleveland have not lost a game in the first two rounds of the two most recent postseasons, becoming the first team in National Basketball Association history to start 8-0 in back-to-back playoffs. Then come Tuesday, why would we expect anything but a Spurs rout of the Rockets in Game 5 back in San Antonio? For some reason, it hasn't happened in Texas - or really anywhere else in May.

"He's incredible", Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni said after the game. With the teams tied at two games each, this now becomes an uncomfortably-tight, best-of-three affair.

When Houston Rockets guard James Harden had a big scoring output in Game 3 against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, he got little help from his teammates, and the result was a defeat. The Cleveland Cavaliers swept the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, and the Golden State Warriors did the same to the Utah Jazz on Monday.

The Rockets probably won't go 19-for-43 from deep again, especially so on the road for Game 5.

The starters have largely been on the bench and the fans on the way to their cars by late in the fourth quarter.

Nene left Sunday night's game after playing 103 seconds, and he exited with an apparent groin injury.

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Now, if they are to survive without Nene, the Rockets will rely on Harden more than ever to cover the court.

"I mean, it's insane". Jonathon Simmons led the team with 17 points off the bench. "It's all about tempo". The shots will fall, or they won't.

Seriously, can you recall an NBA Playoffs that have been so barren of drama and bereft of any real buzz through the first two rounds like we're experiencing this year?

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) shoots a three-pointer during the second half of the NBA Western Conference semifinals Game 4 Sunday, May 7, 2017, in Houston. The final score of 125-104 isn't pretty, but it could've been worse.

It seemed the Spurs had finally solved their issues defending Houston's long-range marksmanship in Games 2 and 3 by keeping their perimeter defenders on the Rockets shooters at all times.

Now the Spurs find themselves planning to approach Tuesday's Game 5 in San Antonio like it's the last in this series.

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NEED TO KNOW: Simple stuff so far. Nene had averaged 10.8 points and 5.3 rebounds in 19.9 minutes during the playoffs before Sunday's injury.

Attacking the Spurs two bigs on the floor provides the Rockets with numerous scoring options in a given possession. Both are natural power forwards, so the Rockets will have to do something creative to keep the Spurs out of the paint. The next time the Rockets had the ball, Harden missed a triple, but Patrick Beverley chased down the rebound, and Harden found Eric Gordon for 3 to give the Rockets an 18-point lead.

"Obviously we made shots which made it a lot easier, but I think energy was up the entire game now matter what", Harden said.

When James Harden and his electric cast of shooters are locked in, they're almost impossible to stop - just ask Gregg Popovich and Kawhi Leonard.

While Nene has struggled in this series, the Rockets need all the big men they can get as they try to deal with the Spurs' massive frontcourt of Aldridge and Gasol.

Beverley was discussing the difficulty of playing with such a heavy heart before beginning to sob while remembering his grandfather.

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PRESSURE IS ON: In this situation, both. He often tapped his heart and pointed to the sky before the game, a gesture he repeated when he hit a 3-pointer in the first quarter.

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