Though the Houston Rockets fell to the Golden State Warriors in a heartbreaking Game 7 loss at home 101-92, they had an incredible season and gave a valiant effort to the bitter end.
It definitely hurts to know that David (Rockets) almost took down Goliath (Warriors) in a seven-game series that many believed wasn’t possible. This “hot-take” generation of sports reporting laughed at the idea of the Rockets winning it all. Not only did the Rockets have the best regular season record in the league, they also managed to get the best of the Warriors during the regular season.
Former NBA player and TNT’s Inside the NBA crew member Charles Barkley expressed after Game 1 of the series, “Anybody who thinks the Rockets are going to win a game or win this series is an idiot. This is over, Ernie. You can’t, Ernie, you just see this game. The Rockets can’t beat them. I picked the Warriors in five, but, no, they’re not going to win a game. I picked the Warriors in five, hey, I’m taking the Warriors in three.”
Sure it was a disappointing loss at home to open the series but 5 games into the series and all of a sudden, the Rockets were up 3-2 going into Game 6.
Much like this, all season long, analysts went on and on about how the Rockets couldn’t be trusted, how there wasn’t enough fire-power to withstand the Warriors’ talent. But alas, these Rockets, the very same Rockets that were shown no respect during the regular season as they worked their way to the top spot, pushed the Warriors to the brink of elimination and everything came down to a single game in determining the best of the West.
Then, of course, the unthinkable happened. Plan B to the mathematics of Houston’s offense was eliminated.
Some might say the rock that surely would have taken down the giant was Chris Paul. Paul’s presence was sorely missed in the final two games of this series after he suffered an untimely hamstring injury. In truth, it took 4 All-Stars, which included 2 league MVPs, to take down the Houston Rockets. That’s nothing to scoff at. The Warriors’ prowess is in their shooting ability and ultimately, their talent gave them the advantage over a shortened Rockets’ bench.
Of the Game 7 loss, D’Antoni said, “It’s like they say, it’s a make or miss league. They made them and we missed them.”
The Rockets managed to build double-digit leads in both games 6 and 7, only to have the Warriors rally back after halftime adjustments in both games. It is not too far-fetched to think that the nine-time All Star point “gawd” that Paul is referred to due to his incredible play-making skills, could have been the difference between the Rockets playing for a title and them running out of steam.
“It sucks because you know you could win this series if we just had one more play-maker,” Gordon said after the Rockets’ Game 7 loss. “If we had Chris, if he was out there, we’d have been playing on Thursday. It’s just tough.”
The third quarter domination by the Warriors in the last two elimination games marked them as the first team in NBA playoff history to do so. The glaring difference in the Game 5 win that tipped the scale in the Rockets’ favor is that Paul was able to stop the bleeding when the Warriors went on a run.
“That’s what C.P. was so good at in two [of the] games we won,” D’Antoni said. “They’d make a little run, he’d hit a 3. They make another run, and he makes another play. And you have to have those momentum changers and stoppers, and the last two games, we didn’t have them.”
While most of the fans are in agreement with Gordon that Paul’s absence cost them the games, members of the team aren’t giving themselves any excuses. Not even a grade 2 hamstring injury.
“I won’t even get into that, man,” said Rockets forward PJ Tucker, who ended up with 14 points and 12 rebounds in Game 7. “It’s a grown-man league. It don’t matter. Next man up. You’ve got to play, got to win. It don’t matter who plays. Step up.”
Star of the Houston Rockets, James Harden, ended the night with 32 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. He also didn’t believe in the excuses, saying, “We don’t even think about that. We had an opportunity tonight and last game without Chris. Obviously, he’s a big part of why we’re here, but we had opportunities, especially in the first half of both games.”
At the end of the day, the shots did not fall for the Rockets. They were 7 of 44 from beyond the arc. At one point the Rockets had 27 consecutive 3 point misses which ended up being historically bad. With that, they have now gone down in history with the most missed consecutive 3-pointers in playoff history. With the game so closely contested, those missed shots will surely haunt the team.
Not only were the Rockets battling against shots that just wouldn’t fall, there was some questionable officiating that ended up favoring the Warriors when it counted the most. That’s not an excuse by any means, but the fact is, missed calls can turn the tide of a game and no real fan of basketball wants to see the outcome of a game determined by officiating.
In 2018 James Harden had another MVP season, Clint Capela developed into quite the force inside the paint, Chris Paul’s mid-range game, leadership, and point guard skills were unmatched, P.J. Tucker has been dynamic all season, hometown hero Gerald Green made some clutch shots, and 6th man of the year candidate Eric Gordon showed up when he was needed the most.
All in all though, the mood is melancholy, not only in Houston but basketball fans around the world, just knowing what could have been. It might sting for a few days, but these 2017-2018 Rockets have a lot to be proud of and a city that couldn’t be any more proud of all that they accomplished this year. The Rockets’ made basketball fun again.
So here it is again, the 4th straight finals match-up between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s safe to say that there isn’t quite as much enthusiasm about this next series in the NBA playoffs since it’s been done before, times three.