Breakfast Special: Stephen Curry, Playoff Choker

Kevin Durant has scored 45 points or more in three of the Warriors’ nine playoff games so far.

The Warriors are 1-2 in those games.

First it was the Los Angeles Clippers beating the Warriors despite Durant’s 45 in Game 5 of the first round.

And Saturday night, it was the Houston Rockets either winning the obligatory Game 3 on their way to losing in 5 or winning the game that keeps this all about home court and stands as a milepost where the series will be won in Game 5 when one team goes up 3-2 and either closes out Game 6 at home (Houston) or goes up 3-2 only to drop Game 6 and win it in Oakland in Game 7 (Golden State.)

Either seems possible. In three games, the final margins have been 4, 6, and 5 points.

Houston’s 126-121 overtime win was in spite of Durant’s 46, as James Harden scored 41 points on 14-of-32 shooting, surprisingly only getting eight free throws (he made all of them.)

There are certain narratives in this series that continued unhindered from the first two games.

For starters, both fanbases have been constantly up in arms with regards to how these games have been officiated, and every call or non-call is seen as a sign that the fix is in. Never mind that the Warriors shot 29 free throws and the Rockets shot 26 in this game (and Harden only shot eight.) There’s “obviously rigged” getting thrown around.

The bigger problem for the Rockets is Clint Capela. Stretching back to the 2018 Western Conference Finals, in ten games against Golden State in the postseason, Capela is minus-93 combined. The Rockets are outscored by 9.3 points per game with Capela on the floor, a point differential that as an entire team, only the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers—a pair of 19-63 teams—matched or exceeded.

It’s an oversimplification to say that Capela turns the Rockets into the Cavs or Suns, but those are the numbers.

Meanwhile, Stephen Curry‘s disappearing beyond the arc in big moments in the playoffs has been well-documented since Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, but in a case of new wine in old bottles, Curry flubbed a dunk this time, his instance of Shaqtin’ a Fool playing a role in the loss:

Steph choked. There’s no two ways around it. Stephen Curry choked big-time in the clutch like he was Kemba Walker.

In simple point of fact, Kevin Durant’s case for being the merc who made the Warriors’ dynasty what it is just got bolstered by the disappearance of his teammate, the way it was at times in Round 1.

Of course, Harden was the man of the match with that 43.8 percent shooting but 5-of-13 from three and 8-of-8 from the line to bolster both his eFG% and his points per FGA numbers.

But he got some help from Eric Bledsoe (30 points, 11-of-20 FG, 7-of-14 3PT), Iman Shumpert and Austin Rivers off the bench (a combined 18 points on 6-of-11), and Chris Paul flirting with a triple-double (14 points on 4-of-8, eight rebounds, and seven assists.)

And even Capela notched a double-double (13 points on 6-of-9 and 11 rebounds) despite his penchant for the team getting outscored during his minutes.

One team rose to the occasion in overtime. The other saw their star fall apart.

We got ourselves a series, and if Golden State wins Game 4, all that means is they have a 3-1 lead, and we all know how that story ends.

CAPELA SMASH

James Harden makes the entire staff at the Ringer, who were ready to leave Houston for dead after Game 2, look dumb:

The Raptors are without a very important piece tonight, and I’m already set with tomorrow’s Breakfast Special headline: “Pascal’s Wager.”

Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!