NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry delivered a dazzling 40-point display on Saturday as the Golden State Warriors beat Houston 115-80 to push the Rockets to the brink of elimination in the Western Conference finals.
The Warriors lead the best-of-seven series three-games-to-zero, and can book their first trip to the NBA finals since 1975 with a win in game four in Houston on Monday.
The Rockets will fight for their playoff lives knowing that no NBA team has come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a seven-game series.
Curry connected on 12 of 19 shots from the field, including seven of nine from three-point range.
He scored 19 points in the third quarter, when he was a perfect four-for-four from three-point range.
His stellar shooting helped stem a Rockets rally. They had eaten into a 25-point halftime deficit with a 7-1 scoring run to open the third period.
Curry responded with a three-pointer, scored on two drives to the basket and drained another three-pointer as Golden State rebuilt their lead to 76-50.
Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors goes up against Dwight Howard of the Houston Rockets in the first half during Game Three of the Western Conference Finals of the 2015 NBA PLayoffs at Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.(AFP Photo)
"Steph was Steph," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "Just a tremendous performance.
"I don't think we've seen anybody this quick, with the ability to create space ... with this kind of fearlessness and confidence. He's really something." Kerr said.
Curry, who broke his 2013 record for the most three-pointers made in a regular season with 286, has now drained the most long-range shots in a single post-season with 64 -- surging past the previous record of 58 set by Reggie Miller in 2000.
But Kerr was even more impressed to see his team leading by 25 at halftime despite lackluster shooting numbers. They shot just 45.1% from the field in the first half, only 45.4% for the game.
But the Rockets were a dismal 29.3% from the field in the first half -- including making just two of 13 three-point attempts -- and never recovered.
Houston guard James Harden, who was outstanding in two close-run defeats to open the series on the Warriors' home court in Oakland, missed seven of eight attempts in the first half.
"The halftime box score was really telling," Kerr said. "We had one turnover. We defended like crazy. So we were up 25 points with a box score that doesn't look that impressive from a shooting standpoint."
Rockets coach Kevin McHale admitted he was surprised his players didn't seem to come out with much urgency as the series shifted to their home court.
"I thought we'd come out with a little more juice," said McHale, adding that it was Golden State's 60-39 superiority in rebounding and their edge in points in the paint that really killed the Rockets.
"They beat us up in those two areas," McHale said, adding that the Warriors out-hustled his players.
"They got loose balls, they got tips, they made the second and third and fourth effort," he said.
Harden finished with 17 points on 3-of-16 shooting from the field.
Center Dwight Howard scored 14 points and pulled down 14 rebounds for Houston, who trailed the Los Angeles Clippers 3-1 in the previous round and came back to win the series.
"We just can't stop believing, no matter how hard it gets," Howard said. "We've got to continue to fight. It's the only way. We can't quit."