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NBA OnScene in Texas: Warriors win, Harden hurting

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Four games, four days, four MVP candidates, four title contenders: It’s the NBA’s version of March Madness, done up Texas style. The eyes of the basketball world will be on Houston and San Antonio, where a quartet of games could help determine one of the closest MVP races ever, as well as give us a glimpse at how the top championship contenders match up.

It all started Sunday, when Russell Westbrook padded his MVP résumé with another triple-double but saw his Oklahoma City Thunder fall to James Harden and the Houston Rockets. Monday night, 195 miles away, two of the past three Finals MVPs faced off, with Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs rolling to victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James, who was forced to leave early with a neck injury. With two games in the books, it was time to turn our attention to the Golden State Warriors, who took care of business against the Rockets, and will try to do the same against the Spurs on Wednesday night.

Tim MacMahon will be your guide to all four games and all the madness surrounding them — and might even show you a glimpse of what a true Texas road trip looks like.

Tuesday, March 28 – Warriors at Rockets

Toyota Center (Houston)

Hello again, Toyota Center. Ready for the third stage of the Texas 4-Step.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

As the doors open, a lot of fans wearing Warriors No. 30 jersey want to get a glimpse of Steph Curry’s warmup routine.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

The Steph Curry warmup show begins.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

0:39

Off night for Steph Curry? Only 5-of-10 from the midcourt logo.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

0:48

He won’t threepeat as MVP, but Steph Curry still has the most intense fan following in the league.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

0:31

Steph Curry’s warmup routine is such an event that even a Hall of Famer like Calvin Murphy makes a point to watch.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

James Harden enters the Toyota Center spittin’ rap lyrics, as usual.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

0:31

How do you know this is James Harden’s house? The DJ switches to Harden’s personal playlist as he starts his warmup routine. First song: “Good Drake” by 2 Chainz. One lyric from that song: “Oh you in a slump, I’m headed to Oakland like Kevin Durant”

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

0:45

Chris Lamb and son C.J., 3 are in Section 115 for most Rockets game and always try to bring their blinged-out, plywood “FEAR THE BEARD” head.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

If your team got eliminated in the first round last season, can you make fun of the Warriors’ Finals failure? Absolutely, according to Dora Rodriguez and her 14-year-old son Mason Garcia.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

It’s ridiculous for the Rockets to be a legitimate contender and there be so many empty seats with the Warriors in town. Houston has a crowd problem.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

Even with the inexplicable empty seats, the crowd is electric at the Toyota Center after the Rockets’ invigorating performance in the second quarter. Houston trails the Warriors, 60-52, but sliced the lead by more than half after the first quarter. Rockets fans were especially energized by James Harden attacking Steph Curry off the dribble, a flashy display of aggressive ballhandling that resulted in a pair of free throws.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

James Harden is really wincing and favoring his sore left wrist. He grabbed it after his last turnover.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

No celebratory drum routine tonight, but the Red Rowdies’ spirit remains strong.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

0:18

Tuesday, March 28 – Road Trip

Driving from San Antonio to Houston

Halfway through the Texas 4-Step, headed from San Antonio back to Houston, so figured we might as well stop to check out the giant stag made of scrap metal in Converse, Texas. They call the big guy, who stand tall in a subdivision, “King of the Parc.”

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

If you’re on a Texas road trip, you’ve gotta make a pit stop at a Buc-ee’s, a big, ol’ gas station and much more.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

Got some good grub at Mikeska’s BBQ in Columbus, Texas with some furry friends.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

Monday, March 27 – Cavaliers at Spurs

AT&T Center (San Antonio)

Welcome to the AT&T Center, home of the Spurs and the occasional bat or snake.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

LeBron James, sporting shades to perhaps protect his eyes from the Texas sun, arrives at the AT&T Center.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

0:28

LeBron James provides his own soundtrack as he starts his warmup routine.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

0:31

LeBron fans line the railings above the visitors’ tunnel as he warms up hoping to get a moment after he finishes.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

There are also a lot of LeBron haters in the building.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

The Baseline Bums have been tamed a bit since the Spurs’ ABA days. They used to sit above the visitors’ tunnel in old HemisFair Arena and once pelted then-Nuggets coach Larry Brown with avocados and guacamole on a 10-cent beer night soon after his declaration that guacamole was the only good thing in San Antonio. “Still rowdy, not as drunk,” one of the bums says.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

Safe to assume Kawhi Leonard is done for the night with the Spurs nursing a 31-point lead with 10:32 to go. He got a standing ovation from much of the crowd when he checked out with 25 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

Kid, maybe 9 or 10, shouts as LeBron James shoots free throws: “Your whole team stinks!” Accurate analysis of tonight’s Cavs performance.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

LeBron James was down on the floor for more than a minute after a delayed reaction to a David Lee elbow in his upper back. He slowly walked to the Cleveland bench after finally getting up.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

LeBron James says he will be ready to play in the Cavs’ next game after taking an elbow to the spine.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

0:17

Ty Lue says it’s “crossed my mind” to sit Cavs Stars down the stretch to make sure they’re fresh for the playoffs. “I don’t know, I might get in trouble.”

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

All Ty Lue could do was laugh after that blowout loss.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

0:45

Has it reached crisis mode for the Cavaliers? The defending champs will drop to 6-9 in March after the Spurs put the finishing touches on this dominant performance.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

LeBron James: “Right now, we’re just not playing good basketball. We’ll figure it out. I’m still confident in the bunch.”

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

0:33

LeBron James on the Cavaliers slipping to second in the East behind the Celtics: “How much does it matter to me? It matters more that we’re playing better basketball than where we’re at, and if that results in us getting the number one seed, getting the number two seed, three or whatever the hell it is, I want us to be playing better basketball. That’s what it comes down to. I’m not worried about anything. I feel like when we’re playing Cavaliers basketball, when we’re playing the type of basketball that we know we’re capable of playing, when we’re at full strength, we can start off on the road. We’ve done it before.”

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

On the bright side for this LeBron fan, at least his lady is happy.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

The Baseline Bums go home in a good mood.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

0:21


Sunday, March 26 – Thunder at Rockets

Toyota Center (Houston)

Russell Westbrook struts into the Toyota Center sporting a bucket hat, shirt with “FEAR OF GOD” on the back and some Thunder-blue highwaters.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

0:20

James Harden as he walks in the Toyota Center: “I’m gonna tell ’em how it is.”

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

0:18

Wyatt Anderson, 6, dad Chris and uncle Justin Glover drove down from Oklahoma City last night. The plan is to bring Wyatt to every NBA arena by the time he’s 21. They bought tickets to this game before the season.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

The MVP candidates looked the part during a spectacularly entertaining first quarter. James Harden’s nine points and two assists helped the Rockets take a 37-31 lead. Russell Westbrook (nine points, two rebounds, six assists) is keeping the Thunder in the game. Trevor Ariza, of all people, has a game-high 11 points.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

Chopped brisket nachos at the Toyota Center. Poached egg, ghost pepper salsa, hold the sour cream. Need a fork for these nachos. Worth the $13.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

James Harden tore the roof off the Toyota Center by drilling a deeeeeep pull-up 3 at the buzzer to end the third quarter. The crowd went crazy as Harden popped his jersey in celebration. Down 25, the Thunder are on the wrong end of yet another nationally televised blowout, a disturbing trend for OKC with the playoffs around the corner.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

You can always count on a couple of extracurricular moments between Pat Beverley and Russell Westbrook. In this case, it was initiated by Westbrook, whose knocked Beverley to the floor while committing a frustrating foul and pretended Beverley didn’t exist as the feisty Rockets guard expressed his displeasure

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

Ho-hum, Russell Westbrook has another 30-point triple-double. A more relevant stat this afternoon: The Rockets have four 20-plus-point scorers.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

The fans who aren’t fleeing for the exits held their breath as James Harden stayed down on the floor for several seconds after his dagger drive. “MVP! MVP!” the fans chanted as Harden finally got on his feet.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

James Harden is all smiles despite the black tape on his sore left wrist as he socializes on his way out of the Toyota Center.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

0:26

Rockets G Pat Beverley on the DNP-Rest trend: “I think that’s bulls—. I think that’s a disgrace to this league. I think that fans deserve better. I could care less about coaches ask players to rest or not. It’s up to you to play or not, and if you don’t you’re disrespecting the game. And I don’t believe in disrespecting the game, because there was a time where I wasn’t playing in the NBA and I was trying to get here. So me resting I feel like is disrespecting me, disrespecting the name on the front of the jersey and disrespecting the name on the back of the jersey.”

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

1:10

The Rockets’ Red Rowdies are rocking after Houston rolled over the Thunder.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer

0:41



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