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NBA Playoff Bracket 2018: TV, Live-Stream Schedule for Sunday's Round 2 Games

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMay 6, 2018

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MAY 04: Referee Eric Lewis #42 issues Rajon Rondo #9 of the New Orleans Pelicans a technical foul after an altercation with Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors during the second half of Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at the Smoothie King Center on May 4, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The two best teams in the Western Conference enter Sunday with a chance to create two games' worth of separation in their respective series.

The Houston Rockets boast more momentum than the Golden State Warriors since they captured Game 3 on the road, but the Dubs are capable of outperforming any opponent in an instant.

If the higher seeds come out victorious in each of Sunday's NBA playoffs contests, Houston and Golden State will return home with the opportunity to clinch spots in the Western Conference Finals in Game 5.

Although it's going to be tough to dispatch of the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz, the Warriors and Rockets are more than capable of turning their respective games up to another level while sending a message to the other ahead of the next round.

         

Sunday NBA Playoffs Schedule

Game 4: Golden State at New Orleans (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC, WatchESPN and ESPN app) 

Game 4: Houston at Utah (8 p.m. ET, TNT, TNTdrama.com and TNT app)

         

Warriors Must Focus on Stopping Rondo 

Rajon Rondo was one of the driving forces of New Orleans' Game 3 victory over Golden State, as he contributed 21 assists and 10 rebounds.

The Pelicans had 36 assists as a team, their fourth-best total of the season, per Jim Eichenhofer of the team's official website:

Jim Eichenhofer @Jim_Eichenhofer

#Pelicans finished with 36 assists in Game 3 vs. Warriors, their fourth-highest total in any game this season. FWIW their best game of 2017-18 was 40 assists vs. Brooklyn on Dec. 27 (Rondo had team-record 25); second-best was 39 assists in a win at Golden State on April 7

With his 21-assist output, Rondo joined Magic Johnson and John Stockton as one of the only players with multiple 20-plus assist games in the postseason, per Pelicans PR: 

Pelicans PR @PelicansPR

Rajon Rondo is the third player in #NBA playoff history to record multiple 20-assist games during the postseason, joining John Stockton and Magic Johnson. #DoItBigger

In the regular season, the Pelicans were victorious in the nine games in which Rondo recorded 13 or more assists, and they won an additional eight when the experienced point guard picked up between 10 and 12 handouts.

As Rondo's assist total has increased in the postseason, the Pelicans have continued to find success. New Orleans has won each of the three games in which the 32-year-old had 16 or more helpers.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MAY 4: Rajon Rondo #9 of the New Orleans Pelicans goes to the basket against the Golden State Warriors in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2018 NBA Playoffs on May 4, 2018 at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans,
Noah Graham/Getty Images

In order to continue to put pressure on the Warriors at Smoothie King Center on Sunday, the Pelicans need another strong performance from Rondo to complement the scoring production of Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and Nikola Mirotic.

While shutting down Davis would seem like the ideal defensive strategy for Golden State given the 25-year-old's stellar postseason play, locking down the offensive point of entry is more important. 

If the Golden State guards can funnel Rondo's movement into a small pocket of space, it should have the opportunity to create turnovers and break in transition, where momentum-changing three-pointers can be made.

However, if Rondo delivers much of the same from Game 3, the Pelicans will once again be competitive and give themselves a legitimate chance to go back to California with the series tied at two games apiece.

          

Houston Looking for More from Supporting Cast 

The most important player in every Houston Rockets game is most likely going to be James Harden or Chris Paul based off their remarkable skill sets.

You could make an argument Eric Gordon was the most valuable Rocket in Game 3, as he came off the bench to score 25 points, which tied Harden's team-high figure. 

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 18:  Eric Gordon #10 of the Houston Rockets competes in the 2017 JBL Three-Point Contest at Smoothie King Center on February 18, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downl
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Four of Gordon's eight field goals were three-pointers, and his performance helped Mike D'Antoni's team bury the Jazz in the first half.

With the Jazz expected to respond to the Game 3 loss with a fast start in Game 4, the Rockets need to keep up Friday's intensity.

Gordon told reporters Saturday if the Rockets play to their potential, no team is beating them on four occasions, per Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle:

Brian T. Smith @ChronBrianSmith

Gordon on #Rockets reaching their potential in playoffs: "This season's very important. You only get this chance once ever. It's all about taking advantage of this now. Because we're like, 'Who's really going to beat us in a series four times?' If we play the right way."

While it remains to be seen whether Gordon's claim will come true in the Western Conference Finals and beyond, the Rockets proved in the first three games of this series they can overwhelm the Jazz, even if Donovan Mitchell and Co. put in solid showings.

In addition to Gordon and Harden, Trevor Ariza, Clint Capela and Paul reached double digits in points in Game 3, while P.J. Tucker was one point away.

As long as the Rockets continue to produce a well-rounded offensive attack, they should turn in their fourth 100-point performance of the series and head home in position to finish off the Jazz.

           

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

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