Rockets on the brink of NBA Finals
Chris Paul injured his hamstring and missed the last 20 seconds of the game. James Harden was zero-of-11 from behind the arc. Houston shot just 37 percent from the field as a team.
Despite setbacks that would knock most teams down, the Houston Rockets were able to edge the Golden State Warriors late in the fourth quarter to take a 3-2 series lead with a chance to advance to the NBA Finals on Sunday with a win in Game 6.
The 98-94 win went down to the wire for the second consecutive game.
The Warriors had the ball with 6.7 seconds remaining down two, but poorly executed a play out of a timeout that ended their chances.
Draymond Green lost control of the ball, bouncing it off his leg into the hands of Houston’s Eric Gordon who was fouled and went on to hit two game clinching free throws.
Gordon finished with a team high 24 points, coming up clutch for the Rockets on a poor shooting night from Harden.
Missing Andre Iguodala and featuring a hobbled Klay Thompson (23 points on eight-of-14 shooting), the Warriors’ backs were against the wall from the opening tip, but they hung tough and had chances to walk away with the win.
Houston’s poor shooting night helped keep them in the game but another late game failure on offence leaves Golden State down in a playoff series for the first time since the 2016 Western Conference Finals.
Kevin Durant scored a game-high 29 points but scored just two in the fourth quarter, the Warriors’ struggles in late game situations continuing.
Whether it’s down to poor execution or a lack of late game playoff experience as a unit since Durant joined, Golden State will need to regroup and retool ahead of Game 6 if they are to get past the Rockets.
Houston’s defence is too good for the Warriors’ talent to simply overmatch and they’ll need to execute better in the clutch (last five minutes of a game, margin with five points) in order to advance to a fourth straight NBA Finals.
Harden scored 19 for the Rockets but shot a poor five-of-21 from the field.
He has missed 20 consecutive three-point attempts, dating back to his last nine in Game 4 and all 11 in Game 5.
Paul’s injury however will be the topic on everyone’s lips until tip-off of Game 6.
He scored 20 points in Game 5 but strained his hamstring with less than a minute to go coming down from a missed shot in the lane.
If he’s able to recover and get close to 100 percent health, the Rockets should be favoured to win the series.
Anything less and the advantage swings in the favour of the reigning champs.