Never before had Harden missed so many consecutive shots at any point in his career - and yet, "The Beard" inevitably rose to prominence when it counted most, scoring 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter to power the Houston Rockets to a 104-101 margin of victory over the Utah Jazz - and a commanding 3-0 series lead. Harden, who had 10 assists, was 4-for-4 from the line in the final two minutes to help Houston hold off Utah. I'll lay the bucket with the Rockets.
Harden gave little credit to the Jazz defense for his shooting performance. Harden was 2 for 13 from three in that game.
However, Utah was actually able to steal a game in Houston in that series, taking Game 2.
Even with those porous numbers, the Rockets hung around for the entirety of the game, thanks in part to Utah guard Donovan Mitchell's low-key bad second half and the Jazz's fruitless evening from 3-point range.
When Harden's teammates needed him most, he was there.
The Jazz opened as 2.5-point favorites.
Chris Paul said: "You trust (Tucker) to make those plays". The Rockets are also 10-1 ATS in their last 11 games as a favorite, and they have every reason to complete the sweep, gaining a rest advantage over the Golden State Warriors.
Asked if he noticed a higher level of intensity from the Jazz's defense, Harden smirked and said, "Nope, just missed a couple of shots".
The teams combined for 72 free throws and at least one player hit the hardwood on nearly every call.
The Rockets got out to a fast start in the first-round matchup against the Jazz.
Gobert had 10 points, eight rebounds and seven blocked shots. The Utah Jazz are averaging 96.3 points on 40.1 percent shooting and allowing 114.7 points on 45.6 percent shooting.
Mitchell vowed to be more aggressive and apologized for being a "no show" early in the series.
"We didn't shoot the ball well and we still won".
Unaware of Korver's postgame comments, Mitchell addressed the podium following the Game 3 loss in a somber mode, wearing a hoodie while taking questions next to Jazz center Rudy Gobert. "Guys stepped up major tonight, and that's what we're going to need".