The Golden State Warriors displayed their resolve to take the NBA Western Conference Finals into a decider against the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets enjoyed a fantastic start to the contest, putting Golden State on the back foot with an outstanding first quarter. Even without the presence of the injured Chris Paul, Houston were sinking every shot from in and around the paint, putting Steve Kerr’s men under immense pressure.
However, like all true champions, the Warriors picked themselves off the mat and fought back. They began in the second quarter to reduce the 17-point deficit at the break to 10. From the third quarter onwards the home side dominated at Oracle Arena.
Golden State scored 64 points in the second half, while the Rockets folded notching only 24 points. Klay Thompson came to the fore as he proved his worth in the clutch for Kerr’s side. Thompson led the way with 35 points, highlighting that Warriors’ strength behind Kevin Durant and Steph Curry.
It was Thompson who led the resurgence at the start of the second half, nailing two three-pointers to eradicate the Rockets’ comfortable lead. Houston had no counterpunch, bemoaning their lack of depth, with the loss of Paul a crucial factor in the contest.
Although Golden State have been formidable their run to the top has been met by a number of key injuries inflicted on their opponents. Kawhi Leonard’s injury in game one of the Western Finals last season proved to be crucial, while Paul’s hamstring strain this year could yet be equally pivotal.
The Rockets would have believed that they were on their way to their first Finals’ appearance since 1995 after the first quarter of game six. Harden along Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza found their form early and were able to put points on the board with ease, notching 39 in the opening 12 minutes.
They held a 17-point lead that was slightly eroded in the second quarter, although Mike D’Antoni’s men remained in a dominant position at the break. However, the second half was a complete capitulation from the Rockets, scoring only 24 points. Harden, Gordon, Ariza, PJ Tucker and Clint Capela were all outplayed as the Warriors seized the initiative and were clinical in the final third.
The loss of Paul was crucial and could be the deciding factor in the series. His hamstring injury could rule him out of game seven, which would be a massive blow for Houston. He has been the driving force of their surge, easing the pressure on Harden to be the solitary line of attack.
Gordon did his utmost to fill that role in game six. For 24 minutes he offered a solid complement. However, the breakdown in the second period highlighted the need for someone to play off Harden. The 28-year-old himself was not at his best and has been up-and-down in the series. He scored 32 points in game six, which is still a fine performance. Although considering he had 24 attempts from the field and made only 10, it was not the clinical display D’Antoni needed from his star man.
Paul may force himself into action for the final game of the series. Even his presence alone could be enough of an emotional lift for the Rockets, who will have been shaken by the impact of the Warriors’ second-half display. It will take a special effort from all the players on the court to drag them over the line, especially from Harden, who has to take a page out of LeBron James’ book and dominate.
Just when the Warriors appeared to be heading out of the post-season, one of the star man emerged to lead them to victory. It was not Durant or Curry, this time it was Thompson who came to the fore. Since Durant’s arrival last season, Thompson has been the seen as the lesser of the three All-Stars, who dominate in the final third for Golden State. However, the 28-year-old displayed his ability under the biggest pressure to deliver the win for his team. Thompson provided the energy and motivation on the court for his team and the crowd.
At the start of the second half he found his range, nailing his shots from the perimeter. From that point onwards the momentum shifted towards the Warriors and it was all one-way traffic from there. Thompson scored 35 points on the night, unleashing 23 throws from the field.
However, it was his ability from the perimeter that turned the course of the match, scoring nine of his 14 three-pointers – an incredible level of accuracy. Much like Durant and Curry, Thompson has been up-and-down in the Western Finals, but if he has found his peak form then the Rockets and the winner of the Eastern Finals are going to be in big trouble.
Although Golden State’s offensive performance will grab the headlines. Their defensive effort in the second half was flawless. They allowed only nine points in the final quarter against one of the most potent teams in the NBA.
Harden and Gordon were held in check for the final 24 minutes as Kerr’s teamtalk at the break inspired his players into action after a poor first half. With confidence on their side along with the fortune of an injured Paul, it’s hard to look beyond the Warriors to reach their fourth-straight Finals.
The two teams will be feeling very different after their experience in the second half of game six. The Warriors will be jubilant having saved themselves from the brink. Houston on the other hand will be devastated, especially after their strong start to the contest. They will have to pick themselves up and come again, although the match on home soil should soften the blow. Momentum has changed hands quickly in the series and it would not be a surprise to see the Rockets provide a stern response.
However, with Paul either missing or hampered by his hamstring injury, it’s going to be extremely hard to match a Warriors’ outfit high on confidence after their triumph. Therefore back Golden State to get over the line and advance to the Finals at odds of -245 with BetOnline, although take Houston on the +3.5 spread at odds of +135 with 888Sport as visiting teams have not found life easy on the road.
Golden State Warriors To Beat Houston Rockets Game Seven
Monday 28th May 2018 21:00 ET (Sunday 29th May 2018 02:00 BST)
Take +3.5 Spread Houston Rockets
Monday 28th May 2018 21:00 ET (Sunday 29th May 2018 02:00 BST)
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