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Warriors-Rockets Game 3 Preview

The Rockets-Warriors series now heads to Houston. James Harden and the Rockets must step up at home, especially with uncertainty surrounding Steph Curry.

Moke Hamilton

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Even without Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors were able to emerge victorious over the Houston Rockets in Game 2 of their first-round series, 115-106. As the series moves to Houston with the Rockets desperately trying to avoid the 0-3 hole that no team has ever successfully overcome, they do so with uncertainty surrounding Stephen Curry and his ability to play effectively.

Predictably, without Curry, Klay Thompson was relied upon to shoulder the scoring burden in Game 2—something he did admirably to the tune of 34 points. Shaun Livingston replaced Curry in the starting lineup and contributed a much needed 16 points and six assists while Andre Iguodala gave the team 18 points off of the bench. Even without Curry, so long as Thompson and Iguodala can give the Warriors an efficient 40 combined points, they should have enough to outlast the Rockets in a seven-game series. But how long it takes for the Warriors to emerge victorious will probably depend on Curry’s health.

Heading back to Houston for Game 3, it is safe to assume that the Rockets’ role players will fare better in front of their home crowd. Through the first two games of the series, the Warriors have done an admirable job of stopping everyone not named James Harden from scoring effectively, and even he has been woefully inefficient from the field thus far. Harden has managed to shoot just 14-38 from the field through two games. Because that has mostly been due to the defensive screens and effective pick-and-roll defense the Warriors have employed, it is likely that Harden will have to work very hard for buckets in Game 3 and Game 4.

But whether the Rockets are able to win a game or two in this series may be determined Dwight Howard and whether he can be the best big man on the floor. Through the first two games of the series, he has attempted only 17 shots and has been outplayed by Andrew Bogut on both ends of the floor. Michael Beasley, Clint Capela and Jason Terry are all capable of turning in a double-figure scoring night off the bench, and one of those three are likely to break loose before their home crowd in a do or die Game 3.

If Curry were at or near 100 percent, we would be inclined to take the Warriors in Game 3. But since that isn’t the case, we will give the Rockets the benefit of the doubt and assume that Harden will get enough help from his supporting cast to help his team pull off a win they need to stay alive in the series.

All season long, the Rockets have underachieved, but once the playoffs begin, it’s a brand new season. After finding a way to remain competitive over the course of Game 2, the Rockets will likely approach Game 3 having the mindset that the Warriors simply defended their home court and that they must now do the same as the series moves to Houston. And if there is one thing we learned about this Rockets team last season, it’s that they won’t quit.

Prediction: With Curry not at or near 100 percent, the Rockets find a way to slow Klay Thompson down and steal Game 3.

Moke Hamilton is a Deputy Editor and Columnist for Basketball Insiders.

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2018 NBA Draft Diary

#28 – Jacob Evans – Golden State Warriors

Jesse Blancarte

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With the 28th overall pick, the Golden State Warriors selected Cincinnati Junior Jacob Evans.

Evans represents a solid pick for nearly any NBA team. Evans fits in the mold of a potential 3-and-D role player. Evans improved in his time at Cincinnati, culminating in his junior year, where he scored 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Evans spent three seasons at Cincinnati and rounded himself into a versatile two-way player who can bring a lot of value at the NBA level.

Evans is a very cognitive player, especially on the defensive end. He has a better grasp of his limitations than most players at this stage of their respective careers and is able to maximize his individual defensive ability within a team concept. Evans generally makes the right rotations, double-teams at the right times and funnels his opponents to where his teammates are when he cannot contain the ball-handler on his own. With the right coaching, he could become a valuable defensive wing in an NBA rotation sooner than some anticipate.

Additionally, Evans is more than just a shooter. He led his team in assists last season and has some skill as a playmaker. Evans will be more of a shooter and finisher in the NBA, but the ability to make the right pass, swing the ball when he isn’t open and take the ball off the dribble when necessary make him an intriguing prospect. This is especially true when you consider how valuable a player like Khris Middleton has become over the years, adding layers to his 3-and-D skill set each season.

The Warriors aren’t in need of an influx of talent but are happy to add Evans regardless.

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2018 NBA Draft Diary

#27 – Robert Williams III – Boston Celtics

With the 27th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics have selected Robert Williams III.

Ben Nadeau

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With the 27th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics have selected Robert Williams III.

Although there were early week rumors that the Celtics might try to trade up, they’ve ultimately elected to find a difference-maker at the end of the first round instead. For a team that nearly reached the NBA Finals despite debilitating injuries to Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, Boston’s roster didn’t need a wholesale change on draft night. But at No. 27, they’ll be more than happy to leave with the mysterious-but-talented Williams.

Last year, Williams was viewed as a potential first-rounder before he returned to Texas A&M for his sophomore year. In 2017-18, Williams averaged 10.4 points and 9.2 rebounds on 63.2 percent from the field, fueling the Aggies to a 22-13 record. During this current pre-draft process, Williams looked poised to become a mid-first-round selection once again — but his stock faded as the big night got closer. In fact, Williams even decided to watch the draft with his family, even though he was a green room invitee.

His stock has undoubtedly dropped as of late, but this may end up being the steal of the draft — naturally, he dropped right into general manager Danny Ainge’s lap. Williams, 6-foot-10, is a freak athlete that’ll bring a new look to an already fearsome defensive unit in Boston. At A&M, Williams won back-to-back SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors and averaged 2.5 blocks per game. Of course, he’ll get the opportunity to learn from the hard-nosed Al Horford, a five-time All-Star and the defensive linchpin for Boston — a win-win situation for all.

Williams, 20, joins an extremely young core in Boston that also includes Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum, among others.

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2018 NBA Draft Diary

#26 – Landry Shamet – Philadelphia 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers select Landry Shamet with the 26th overall pick.

Dennis Chambers

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With the 26th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select guard Landry Shamet of Wichita State.

Shamet, if he is able to fulfill his potential, should provide the Sixers with some much-needed shooting, as their rotation was noticeably starved for another deadeye sniper.

A career 43.7 percent three-point shooter, Shamet sank 44.2 percent of his shots from downtown last season, and he did so while firing nearly six attempts from deep a game. Sliding Shamet at the guard position alongside franchise point guard Ben Simmons allows for another weapon at Simmons’ disposal.

Standing at 6-foot-5 and 21 years old, Shamet has the size to play either guard spot in the NBA (especially given Philadelphia’s lengthy and versatile lineup). Along with his shooting ability, Shamet also led the American Athletic Conference with 166 assists last season. With Markelle Fultz still a question mark for Philadelphia, Shamet provides a secondary ball-handler and playmaker, whether in the starting lineup or in the reserve unit.

The first round of the 2018 NBA Draft was a whirlwind for the Sixers, and they ultimately land two guards of very separate varieties: an upside-laden athlete in Zhaire Smith, and a skillful “veteran” rookie whose skillset is established.

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