After games one, two and three of this Western Conference Finals series weren’t really close, games four and five have been an absolute treat for basketball fans. While neither game has been pretty, it truly embodies what playoff basketball is.
The difference in game five was clearly the turnovers by Golden State. They turned it over 16 times leading to 18 Houston points. The Rockets were actually doing the Warriors favors by not knocking down their shots. Golden State’s sloppiness led to a lot of open looks for Houston. Usually, missed opportunities come back to bite you in the playoffs, but that hasn’t been the case for this gritty Rockets team.
In what has been the most surprising aspect of the last two games is that the Rockets are playing incredible defense. They’re forcing the Warriors to turn into a slow paced, isolation offense instead of the team oriented offense that relies heavily on ball movement. Even with Chris Paul and James Harden shooting a combined 32/86 (37%) from the field, the Rockets are still winning. That’s team basketball.
As the series shifts back to Golden State for game six, we await the news on Chris Paul. It seemed he injured his hamstring late in game five. He will be reevaluated Friday morning.
The Warriors have had success in recent years with big name players getting injured. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving in the 2015 NBA Finals and Kawhi Leonard in last year’s Western Conference Finals. It will be interesting to see if this will be the case again in 2018.