Houston Rockets VS Golden State Warriors May 4, 2019

Posted by thechampionrings on May 5th, 2019

PJ Tucker sat on the Rockets' (Houston Rockets championship rings) bench and seethed as he watched Kevin Durant's scoring flurry to give the Golden State Warriors the lead early in the fourth quarter Saturday night. "I was pissed because I knew that's when KD goes on his runs, at the beginning of the fourth," said Tucker, who had been sitting since picking up his fourth foul just more than a minute into the second half. "[Houston coach Mike D'Antoni] still had me sitting down, so I was really pissed." Durant scored on the Warriors' first four possessions of the fourth quarter -- a pull-up 3-pointer, a midrange fadeaway, a 16-footer off the dribble and another pull-up 3 -- and Tucker got more ticked with each shot. Tucker made it quite clear to the Rockets' coaching staff that he needed to check back in the game. "Oh, I said something to all of them," Tucker said, cracking a slight grin after the Rockets' 126-121 overtime win in Game 3 to record their first victory of the Western Conference semifinals series. 

D'Antoni didn't need any more convincing. He called timeout and substituted in Tucker. Suddenly, Durant appeared to be human again, scoring only seven points on 2-of-7 shooting in the final 15 minutes of the game, including overtime, with Tucker as his primary defender. Tucker also dominated the glass down the stretch, grabbing nine of his game-high 12 rebounds in the fourth quarter and overtime, a major factor in the Rockets dominating the rebounding battle by a 55-35 margin. He also scored all seven of his points after checking back in with 10 minutes, 1 second remaining in regulation. He unleashed a primal screen after fighting for two offensive rebounds and muscling in a lead-changing, and-1 putback for his first points at the 7:19 mark of the first quarter and made two smart cuts for buckets in overtime. "That's who Tuck is," D'Antoni said. "He's a winner, and he wouldn't let us lose." Reigning MVP James Harden had his highest-scoring game of this postseason. He put up 41 points, including half of the Rockets' 14 in overtime, sinking a stepback 3 and floater in the final minute to seal the win. Shooting guard Eric Gordon had a sensational night, scoring 30 points on 11-of-20 shooting, hitting half of his 14 3-point attempts. Center Clint Capela made his biggest impact of the series after a disappointing first two games, scoring 13 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and rejecting an Andre Iguodala dunk attempt in spectacular fashion. 

But it was Tucker, the lowest-paid and lowest-scoring member of Houston's (championship rings for sale) starting lineup, whom Rockets teammates and coaches raved about the most after notching their first win of the highly anticipated series between West heavyweights. "Tuck doesn't do any of the glamorous stuff," said guard Chris Paul, who had 14 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. "All of the stuff he does doesn't [necessarily] show up on the stat sheet. We say it all the time, but it's always nice for other people to get a chance to see it and appreciate it. He's easily one of the most valuable guys on our team just because of the way he plays. He plays hard, and he forces you to do the same." 

Tucker's toughness and versatility give the Rockets the option to go small and counter the Warriors' feared "Hamptons 5" lineup, which features Draymond Green at center. Houston played much of the fourth quarter and all but 44 seconds of overtime with Tucker, who is 6-foot-6, at center surrounded by four guards and still outrebounded the Warriors by a 17-9 margin in that span. "He just plays extremely hard every time he's on the floor since he got into the league," Durant said. "That's just expected out of him at this point." 

Tucker's most important role in this series is defending Durant, which is as tough a task as any in the NBA (nba championship rings for sale) these days. Durant had another huge night, scoring 46 points on 14-of-31 shooting, his third 40-plus-point performance of this postseason. But Durant did his most extensive damage when foul trouble forced Tucker to the bench. Durant had 22 points on 6-of-9 shooting during the span of 12 minutes, 47 seconds that Tucker sat out after getting called for his fourth foul. "He's going to score," Tucker said. "You can double him, you can do whatever you want and be the best defender -- he's going to score. The thing is making it tough and making him have to work for it." 

That's exactly what Tucker did when he checked back into the game in the fourth quarter, swatting the ball away the next time Durant drove to the basket and making the perennial All-NBA selection fight for every step, with or without the ball in his hands. "For him to come in and guard KD like that when he was scorching hot was incredible," Rockets reserve guard Austin Rivers. "We don't have an answer for [Durant], but PJ is the one guy who can guard him or at least slow him down. PJ won that game for us in a lot of ways." 

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