© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
When you beat a team by 41 points in one game and outscore them 93-47 in three quarters in another, there is not a doubt which team is better. But in a Game 7, anything can happen.
That uncertainty is the result of the Warriors giving away Game 4. This series should be over, but there is more work to do on Monday. Essentially, the Warriors will have to beat Houston five of seven times— not easy.
Just think of each of Houston’s past four games: 39 percent shooting, 39 percent shooting, 37 percent shooting, and 40 percent shooting, resulting in 85 points, 95 points, 98 points, and 86 points for the Rockets. And this is the second-best offensive team in the NBA. That is how good the Warriors defense has been in the past four games.
Make no mistake, the second half of Game 6 is the “get right” offensive sequence the Warriors desperately needed. Gone was the stagnant one-on-one offense, and back was the typical ball movement and great shooting that have defined this team.
Once again, Klay Thompson is underappreciated by not only Warrior fans but the entire NBA. Other than Kawhi Leonard, Thompson might be the best two-way player in the game, and yet somehow he only got two out of 100 votes for the three All-NBA teams (the best 15 players in the league). These voters should be exposed and replaced — beyond embarrassing.
Watching the first six games of this series, I can only imagine a Rockets’ instructional kids camp. Kids learn how to fall down after every three-pointer or randomly jump into defenders hoping for free throws from James Harden. Chris Paul and Eric Gordon teach young hoopsters how to push off with the free arm on every drive. Sometimes, you just wonder what sport the Rockets play, and what certain officials are watching.
If you don’t think officiating will be a focal point of Game 7, you have not been paying attention. The free throw line is THE thing for the Rockets. Part of the reason they survived Game 4 was a 27-14 free throw advantage. In Game 5, it was a 32-23 edge from the line. Free throws in Game 7 can not be overstated. The Rockets need the stoppages, the free points, the potential foul trouble on key Warrior players. They can’t win without an edge from the line.
The Warriors want as much up-and-down action as possible. The less stoppages, the more basketball, the advantage goes to the better team. Clearly, appearances by either Andre Iguodala or Paul will impact Game 7 both emotionally and structurally.
I laugh at the “next man up” mantra in pro sports. Here is a reality: key injuries kill teams. If the “next man” was better or equivalent, he would be playing instead. The drop-off from Iguodala to Nick Young, or Paul and Gordon to Gerald Green? Come on.
Two things to consider entering Game 7: the team with fewer turnovers has won every game, and the first quarter will be critical. The Rockets have led by seven and 17 points at the end of the first quarter in the past two games. That’s not a good idea in Game 7.
The Rockets/Warriors matchup has featured compelling games, but not great basketball for long stretches. Game 7 is a survival game. The Warriors didn’t do enough to gain home court advantage due to injuries and complacency in the regular season. Now they have to play Game 7 due to a brutal fourth quarter in Game 4.
And they can fix it all Monday night…