The Warriors' big three have to perform

Warriors Will Respond On Home Soil To Set Up Decider

The Houston Rockets closed in on a place in the NBA Finals by defeating the Golden State Warriors 98-94 in game five of the Western Conference Finals.

The Rockets built off their success at Oracle Arena with a fine performance to take the lead for the first time in the series.

However, the victory came at a price as Chris Paul has been ruled out of game six after suffering a hamstring injury. Paul was once again outstanding on the court for the Rockets, making his absence a huge loss as they travel back west.

For once it was not James Harden or Paul that led Houston in scoring on the night. Eric Gordon came to the fore with 24 points. He will need to emulate that display to fill Paul’s void on the court.

Golden State have not looked themselves in the past two matches. Their offensive play, which has been seamless in their recent run of dominance, has been held in check by stoic defending from Houston in crucial moments in the game.

Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson all scored over 20 points to put their side on the path to victory. However, the bench provided little relief for the trio, while Kevon Looney struggled throughout the contest, which could force Steve Kerr’s hand in game six.

The Warriors have to win to keep the series alive to maintain the defense of their NBA crown. Expect a reaction from their potent offense as the club have reached the desperation stage of their season.

The Warriors' big three have to perform

Houston Rockets

The Rockets are just one game away from reaching the NBA Finals for the first time since 1995. Houston have been brilliant in the series. It takes a great deal of character and skill to come back from a 2-1 deficit against a team such as great as the Warriors. Mike D’Antoni’s men have risen to the challenge and have now put themselves within striking distance of the NBA Championship series. They’ve needed to be flawless to respond and have produced at both ends of the court.

Houston are not renowned for their defensive capabilities. They’ve made their name by outscoring their opponents with their high-flying offense. However, in the series they’ve knocked the Warriors’ potent attack out of rhythm. At the start of the round of matches, Durant was flying high and he took the Rockets to task in game one at the Toyota Center. Since then he has not been the same player, and although Curry has also had his moments, they’ve not been able to take control of the Western Finals.

It hasn’t been down to scoring pressure at the other end of the court. Houston have not been at their best in the final third. Harden notched only 19 points in game five and has not been operating at the peak of his powers. It’s encouraging from the Rockets’ point of view, but they will need the All-Star more than ever in game six in light of Paul’s injury. A performance that carries his side into the Finals could be the statement outing that Harden needs to join the company of Durant, Curry and LeBron James at the top of the NBA pyramid.

Gordon’s performance was vital in the victory, leading the way with 24 points. He has rebounded after a tough start to the series. He could be the complement that Harden has to play off without Paul on the scene. There can be no weak links for Houston at Oracle Arena.

Golden State Warriors

The Warriors are not in a place they’ve been too often in their recent run of success – they’re facing the prospect of an elimination game. They eased to the Finals last season without dropping a game, but in their historic 2015/16 term, Kerr’s men were staring down the barrel of defeat in the Western Finals. Russell Westbrook, Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder had Golden State on the ropes, boasting a 3-1 lead heading into game five of their series. However, the Warriors marched back into the contest and won three matches on the bounce to break the hearts of the Thunder, although they were to lose their next test of character to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

After the addition of Durant, the Warriors have not been forced to work too hard for their success. Their run to the crown last season was evidence of their imperious hold on Western Conference. However, Houston have risen and it will be curious to see whether Golden State are up to the task to see off another challenger to the throne in the west. They’ve been knocked back on the ropes by the Rockets’ in the last two games when it appeared they were on course for their fourth-straight Finals appearance. Their offense has been stymied since game three and it needs a complete effort from the entire side to get back on track.

Durant was on form in the early matches, while Curry came to life in game three. Thompson has been up-and-down, which has highlighted their issues in the final third. The Warriors need all three of their stars working in tandem to get them over the line. Draymond Green and Looney have been exposed at times, with their inefficiency around the rim, while the bench has not offered a great deal of help either. Fortunately Golden State are blessed with three of the best players in the NBA and they should be able to find their form.

Breakdown

The Warriors will sense an opportunity to put the Rockets under pressure without the presence of Paul. The point guard has been Houston’s key player, driving them forward in the series. Durant, Curry and Thompson will be looking to put strain on Harden to put the game solely on his shoulders.

Should Golden State find their rhythm on offense it will be hard for the Rockets to keep pace, especially on the road. They’ve been defiant before, but without Paul it might too much for them given the do-or-die situation for the Warriors. Back Kerr’s men for the win at odds of -900   at BetOnline, while take the -12.5 spread for Golden State at +108   with 888Sport.

Tips Summary

Golden State Warriors To Beat Houston Rockets Game Six
Saturday 26th May 2018 21:00 ET (Sunday 27th May 2018 02:00 BST)
Odds: -900

Take -12.5 Spread Golden State Warriors
Saturday 26th May 2018 21:00 ET (Sunday 27th May 2018 02:00 BST)
Odds: +108

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