HOW THE ROCKETS LOSS AND WHY CHRIS PAUL’S CONQUEST CONTINUES.
Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals lived up to the billing that it was; the number 1 (Houston Rockets) and 2 (Golden State Warriors) seeds fight for a spot in the finals. Games 1 and 2 proved to be a true test of blows between the teams; we’ll show you what we got versus show us what you got. After those two games, the series’ narrative made a sea-change in game 3 to: we’re the champs, here’s why. Game 3 Steph Curry was, Steph Curry, dropping 35 pts. But the game 3 stellar play of Kevin Durant and Curry weren’t the attention. The attention was on former finals MVP Andre Iguodala, who left the game after suffering a bone bruise. Iguodala, who’s the Warriors fifth-leading scorer during the postseason, is the teams’ spark plug, who can galvanize the team on just a couple of plays. Iguodala’s injury kept him out for the rest of the series.
The Rockets proved that they were the 1 seed for a reason. Since acquiring Chris Paul in this past season’s free agency, the Houston Rockets was exactly what Paul needed and what Houston needed. James Harden got a proven, sturdy veteran who can run a team and Paul finally got an MVP caliber running mate and a coach who encouraged him to SHOOT. During Paul’s free agency, his primary focus was to be on a team that could beat the Warriors, check it out in his three-part documentary series: CP3: Chapter 3.
The Rockets had an incredible season due to three reasons:
1. The gelling of Paul and Harden.
2. Coach Mike D’Antoni’s system fit the two stars perfectly.
3. The supporting cast fed off of each other’s very infectious energy: PJ Tucker, Clint Capella, Tervor Ariza, Eric Gordon, Gerald Green and the physical play of Nene.
The Rockets set a franchise record season in wins (65-17) and breaking their own record with total three pointers made in a season (1,181). Yes folks, they shoot A LOT. With their stellar regular season behind them, the Rockets bullied their way to the WCF, introducing Paul to his first ever conference finals series in his 13 year career. How excited was Paul? Coming out of a timeout in game 5, Paul looked like a giddy school kid, bouncing with a smile on his face trying to amp up Harden, who was having an awful shooting night (5-21). What a difference a year makes, Harden didn’t have that type of encouragement last year.
After the Rockets’ ugly win in game 4, from that game until game 7, they have done the same thing: have a crazy first half, but in the third quarter, let the Warriors back in the game. The Rockets kept giving the Warriors long rebounds due to long shots and the Warriors took advantage of Houston in transition. In Game 5, Paul goes down. The minute he went down and tried to get up, I immediately knew it was; his hamstring. This has been a chronic nagging injury for him throughout his career. With Paul out for game 6, the responsibility fell on Harden’s shoulders again. He tried what he could, but the 4-headed monster called GSW became too much for Harden and the Rockets, being drained by Klay Thompson’s 35 pts, going 9-14 from deep.
The Rockets came out hot in Game 7, that it led to a concerned uh-oh moment for the GSW, the rockets seemed like they couldn’t miss, led by Eric Gordon. The Rockets looked like the Warriors, and PJ Tucker was grabbing offensive boards like the Warriors forgot he was on the court. Then the third quarter happened; Durant and Curry went completely off and it became a big UH-OH for the Rockets. The Warriors never looked back, taking the game and the series (101-92).
So how did Houston lose Game 7 (this game in particular) and the series? They got beat by their own game. They shot themselves out of the game by trying to beat the Warriors by being the Warriors. That may work in one game but it’s not going to work in four games, just ask the other teams who’ve tried to do that during the regular season. But I leave you with this parting-gift from the conference finals.