Externally, there has been a rush to absolve Warriors guard Stephen Curry of his ineffective play, with the dislocated finger on his left hand and sprained ankle he suffered in the first round against the Los Angeles Clippers serving as convenient excuses for those seeking them.
For Golden State, the explanations are much simpler and direct.
In Game 3 of this Western Conference semifinal series between the Warriors and Houston Rockets, Curry shot 7 of 23, missed 7 of 9 3-pointers, and misfired on a layup and blew an uncontested dunk down the stretch of a 126-121 overtime loss Saturday at Toyota Center. Curry has shot 35.3 percent overall and 25.0 percent from deep during the series, with his errant shooting in the Warriors' loss continuing a trend.
"He just had a tough night," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "No matter how good you are, you're going to have some bad games, and just a tough night for him. It just didn't happen."
Said Curry, who's averaging 18.3 points in the series: "It was just one of those nights. I was aggressive early, tried to get to my spots and take shots. Over the course of my 44 minutes, it wasn't my night.
"We still had a couple of chances to win down the stretch. Obviously, I'm thinking of what I can do better and elevate my game, and I'm looking forward to Monday."
The Warriors might need both Curry and Klay Thompson to relocate their accuracy in Game 4 Monday at Toyota Center to keep Houston from squaring the series. The Splash Brothers are shooting a combined 28.8 percent (15-for-52) from deep in the series, and their lack of reliable marksmanship is heaping additional pressure on Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala to keep the Warriors humming offensively.
That trio was nearly enough in Game 3, with Durant posting a game-high 46 points, Green notching his sixth career postseason triple-double (19 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) and Iguodala nailing 3 of 4 3s en route to 16 points. But, ultimately, if the Warriors are to thwart the Rockets, Curry must reclaim his form and reliability.
Houston uncovered the scoring to complement James Harden in the form of Eric Gordon, whose two-way performance proved vital in the first round against the Utah Jazz and remains a foundation to the Rockets' success. Gordon scored a playoff-career-high 30 points in Game 3, drilling 7 of 14 3s to keep Houston afloat until Harden got going. And his defense remains stout.
"I have to do that every game," Gordon said. "It's all about bringing something to the table offensively, defensively every single night and give yourself a chance to win."
Oftentimes, Gordon is easy to overlook. On a team with outsized personalities and performers, his understated approach slips through the cracks. But Gordon is averaging 24.0 points on 41.2 percent 3-point shooting this series, and his teammates are fully aware of his production.
"Gordy tough," Rockets guard Chris Paul said. "I think sometimes we've got more confidence in Gordy than he's got in himself. He has unlimited range: when you kick it to him and he's five steps behind the 3-point line, that's a regular shot for him. Everybody else be like, 'Wow!' We're used to it. And he can drive, he can defend. We just really appreciate him around here."
--Field Level Media