HOUSTON.- Houston Rockets guard James Harden’s MVP candidacy became stronger with the 41 points he scored in his team’s 126-121 win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals on Saturday.
It was the first victory for the Rockets in the series, which the Warriors lead 2-1.
Harden helped his team win in overtime with five 3-point attempts, nine rebounds and six assists – scoring seven out of Houston’s 14 points in the extra period – after Eric Gordon had led the team from the Lone Star State in the first half.
Rockets point guard Chris Paul also showed major teamwork with 14 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
However, the surprise factor of the night was PJ Tucker, who led the defense with seven points and 12 rebounds, along with two blocks.
Meanwhile, reserve Iman Shumpert bagged 10 points after chipping in with three triples out of five.
«He (Harden) was just terrific tonight,» said the Rockets’ head coach, Mike D’Antoni. «A lot of guys on our bench were good. Shumpert came and he did a heck of a job, Austin Rivers took turns.»
On the other side of the court, Kevin Durant emerged as the undisputed leader in the Warriors’ offense with 46 points.
«Numbers don’t really matter, they don’t tell the whole story,» Durant said in the post-game press conference.
Durant became the 10th-highest scorer in playoffs history after scoring his 3,957th point, thus surpassing Dwyane Wade’s record of 3,954 points.
Apart from Durant, the Warriors had Draymond Green leading their side with a triple-double of 19 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
«He’s playing at a really, really high level,» said Golden State coach Steve Kerr after the game, in reference to Green. «I thought he was fantastic tonight.»
«Houston played really well, they deserved to win,» Kerr added. «They knew they had to win the game and they brought the competitive fire.»
«We had our moments,» he said. «Some individual moments, but we got to play better than that.»
Durant and Green were followed by Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson, who also made double-digit contributions.
However, the Rockets were always ahead as a team throughout the game.
Game 4 is set to be played on Monday at Houston’s Toyota Center.