It might be a little harsh to actually go out on record and say that the Houston Rockets are solely to blame for the now predictable and anti-climatic NBA season finale where once again, it’s Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers battling it out for the fourth year in a row, but it’s not far off to be fair.
In Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, Houston, on the brink of advancing to the NBA Finals raced into a 39-22 lead after the first quarter and even maintained their double-digit cushion at the half, leading 61-51. Overall they were leading 3-2 in the series against what had been a subpar Warriors unit at best.
Then the Rockets tanked.
Golden State caught fire, outscoring the Rockets 64-25 in the second half to record a blowout 115-86 win to force a Game 7. Houston coach Mike D’Antoni made no real adjustments, and kept to his risky style of play of transition, full-pace, live by the three-pointer, individualistic basketball, which is made even more dangerous with the fact that Golden State pretty much lives by that too – but are more organised, which makes it more effective – and have more players that play to that style than his team does.
Game 7 in Houston was set, and on paper, you fancy the Rockets on their home court, even without their star point guard Chris Paul and they started off well enough. Neither team got into their usual rhythm but the hosts led 24-19 and were good value for it.
But as the game progressed, the Warriors slowly did too, almost easily coming back from a 16-point deficit in the first half to take the lead in the third quarter and comfortably hold on. I say comfortably mainly because Houston’s offence consisted of 27 straight misses, including going 1/14 from three-point range in the second half. In total, Houston shot just 15.9 percent from deep (7/44).
To summerise even more: The Warriors outscored Houston 122-63 in the second half of the final two games.
It’s incredible to think that with Houston’s firepower, that they would find ways to claw their way back into the game. But, they seemed to rely solely on the long-range shot and most importantly, they failed to play as one. As a team, they only managed 17 assists which for an NBA game – where they’re playing 48 minutes instead of the standard 40 that we’re used to here in Europe – is not good enough.
Maybe it’s a good thing that Houston lost. The NBA is mainly the first call for any youngsters that want to learn more about the game and there is no denying that juniors learn a lot from the likes of Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and James Harden. Despite the latter of that list scoring 32 points, the MVP-elect did not have his best game, especially down the stretch.
At times, Harden did not help himself by putting more attention into hoping the referees would blow their whistle then scoring at times and at the crucial moments of the contest, he tried doing it on his own, rendering his team-mates meaningless.
On the other hand (hence why ‘maybe’ is in bold), it is a pity that Houston are not in the Finals. Without a doubt, they were one of the most exciting teams in the NBA to watch this season. Along with Boston, it would have been refreshing to see both storied franchises competing in the Finals.
It would have been great to have either Boston or Houston in the Finals. But instead we now get what is becoming the usual.
Anyone for part five next year?