Warriors force Game 7 as Finals berth slips through Rockets' grasp

Warriors force Game 7 as Finals berth slips through Rockets' grasp

OAKLAND -- An opportunity lost. The Houston Rockets looked like they were on their way to the NBA Finals Saturday evening, taking an early 17-point lead over the reigning champion Golden State Warriors on their home court.

And then the wheels fell off Houston’s bus.

After trailing by 10 at the half, the Warriors throttled the Rockets in the final 24 minutes, outscoring the Houston 64-25 after the intermission.

“First two minutes of the third quarter, for sure,” Gerald Green said when asked when the game slipped away. “We had a 10-point lead. They scored eight points as fast as I can count to eight. We’ve got to just take that away.”

Fueled by the hot shooting of Klay Thompson, Golden State opened the third quarter with that eight point burst, before Mike D’Antoni called a timeout. They extended it to an 11-0 run to take their first lead since the first quarter at the 9:24 mark of the period. From that moment on, the champs never let up.

“That’s a good team over there,” veteran Trevor Ariza said following the game. “They’re never out of any game. We should have done a better job of holding onto the lead, holding onto the ball. When we don’t hold onto the ball, they get out, they get numbers and they get a lot of open looks.”

Houston was sloppy with the ball early, giving it away 11 times in the first half. But their transition defense was solid and they limited Golden State to just 4-of-18 shooting from behind the arc in the first 24 minutes.

They opened the third with loose handles and the Warriors made them pay. The Rockets finished the game with 21 turnovers that led to 23 points for the Warriors. Against a club like Golden State, you can’t make that many errors and hope to survive with a win.

“If you turn the ball over 21 times against my little son’s team, they’ll probably beat you,” Green said. “You can’t turn the ball over 21 times, especially not against this team.”

While the Rockets fumbled the ball away, the Warriors got hot from the perimeter, knocking down 12-for-20 from 3-point range after the break as they played to an engaged Oracle Arena crowd.

The absence of five-time All-Star Chris Paul hurt the Rockets. Without their point guard and leader, they completely fell apart. Paul pulled a hamstring in Houston’s Game 5 win over Golden State and his status for Game 7 is unknown at this time.

“Obviously, we hope to have our starting point guard back,” P.J. Tucker said. “But, if not, we need to be ready. I think we showed in the first half we can still play. It’s about remaining and keeping focus.”

Following the loss, the Rockets locker room was quiet, but not defeated. Despite the lopsided 115-86 final score, the series goes back to Houston for a Game 7 where the Rockets have had success against the Warriors.

“We’ve got what we want, now it’s up to us to go get it,” D’Antoni said following the loss. “It will be rocking and H-Town will be fired up. It’s up to us to knock them out.”

For one of these two teams, the 2017-18 season is down to 48 minutes of basketball. Houston will have the home crowd at the their back, but Golden State has been here before. It’s win or go home for the two best teams in the Western Conference.

Game Result/Schedule
Game 1 Warriors 119, Rockets 106
Game 2 Rockets 127, Warriors 105
Game 3 Warriors 126, Rockets 85
Game 4 Rockets 95, Warriors 92
Game 5 Rockets 98, Warriors 94
Game 6 Warriors 115, Rockets 86
Game 7 Houston -- Monday, May 28th at 6pm

Why Max Kellerman thinks Warriors' dynasty will end if Kevin Durant leaves

Why Max Kellerman thinks Warriors' dynasty will end if Kevin Durant leaves

For the past five seasons, the Golden State Warriors have reigned over the NBA with an iron fist. 

Ever since Kevin Durant arrived in the Bay in the summer of 2016, the Warriors have been nothing short of invincible when healthy. Durant has the option to opt out of his contract at the end of the season and many believe the two-time NBA Finals MVP will wave goodbye to the Warriors and craft the next part of his legacy in another city. 

If Durant does elect to leave the Bay Area, the Warriors probably will be OK in the eyes of most people. But one pundit doesn't think the outlook without KD is so rosy for the Dubs. 

On Wednesday''s episode of ESPN's "First Take," Max Kellerman riffed on why Golden State's reign of terror in the NBA will be over if they can't convince the Slim Reaper to stay.  

That's just like ... your opinion, man. 

[RELATED: Warriors show resolve in splitting tough back-to-back vs. Spurs, T'Wolves]

Even if Durant chooses to leave, the Warriors still will have the nucleus of a team that went to back-to-back NBA Finals and won 73 games before No. 35 arrived. Kellerman is right in pointing out the Warriors' cap situation will hamstring them a bit, but there's no reason to sound the apocalypse alarms should Durant find a new home this summer. 

As for the rest of this season, the Warriors are primed to win their third consecutive championship before holding their breath and awaiting Durant's decision. 

Warriors Under Review: Strong recovery earns split in tough back-to-back


Warriors Under Review: Strong recovery earns split in tough back-to-back

If they had to lose once on this rugged four-game journey through the central time zone, the Warriors would have chosen defeat in San Antonio, as falling to the Spurs has a way of forcing a team to recalibrate.

So the Warriors were a determined bunch when they left Texas late Monday night for the 1,200-mile flight to Minneapolis, where they faced the Timberwolves on Tuesday night. They got their win, which made for a satisfying ride home, arriving in the Bay Area early Wednesday.

Here is a look at some of the positives and negatives gleaned from a back-to-back set with travel that is as challenging as any on the NBA schedule:



Splash Brothers bounce back

Though Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson don’t often stink it up – by their standards – simultaneously, they did in San Antonio. They combined for 39 points, shooting 14-of-43 from the field, including 10-of-27 from beyond the arc. It’s tough for the Warriors to win like that, particularly when both are getting as many or more shots than Kevin Durant (9-of-18).

Curry and Thompson made amends Tuesday, driving the offense in the win at Minnesota. They combined for 64 points on 23-of-42 shooting, including 12-of-24 from deep.

Facing a weak Timberwolves defense, was this predictable? Perhaps. But it still had to happen. Curry and Thompson made sure it did.



The seed gets slippery

The Warriors definitely would like to earn the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, if not overall. The win Saturday at Oklahoma City tightened their grip while also smashing a potential playoff opponent.

But the loss to the Spurs, combined with Denver’s win at Boston, left the Warriors and Nuggets tied at the top of the West. That was the penalty the defending champs paid for that rare night when neither Curry nor Thompson found any shooting rhythm.

The top seed remains very much in play. With the Nuggets showing no sign of a fading, the Warriors must assume that the only breathing room they can expect is that which they create.



An old, new, old friend returns

Andrew Bogut arrived in the Bay Area over the weekend expecting to play Thursday against the Pacers at Oracle Arena. He’d have time to recover from a 14-hour flight from Australia, settle in with his family, complete conditioning tests and then reunite with his former team.

That plan was moved up three days when DeMarcus Cousins got hurt Saturday in Oklahoma City. Bogut flew to San Antonio and played solid 19 minutes against the Spurs before struggling – as was expected – through 13 minutes against the Timberwolves.

Bogut showed he can handle 10-15 minutes in certain games (against larger, physical big men) but on might not leave the bench others. He brings a good presence to the mix. He will help.



A welcome blast from the past

Jonas Jerebko has been missing for much of the past three months, playing sparingly and almost never making an impact. He didn’t come off the bench for a single second in San Antonio.

He came off it with a vengeance in Minneapolis, pouring in 14 points during a nine-minute run in the second quarter. He drilled his first 3-point shot, then another and another. Such nuclear production is more typical of Curry, Durant, and Thompson – not the guy who rarely plays. Jerebko finished with 18 points in 18 minutes.

Jerebko early in the season often provided a lift with his shooting. Then there was, well, not much. As the team’s only identifiable stretch-4, he has a role. If his shot is falling, that role can be pivotal.