Cleat Geeks

Can Houston Win Game 6 Down 1?

The Houston Rockets are one win away from making the NBA finals but will have to do it without Chris Paul as he injured his hamstring in-game five. This means that James Harden will have to flip the playoff narrative that he runs out of energy and does not show up in the clutch. In the Rockets game five win, Harden was not much of a factor, scoring just 19 points while shooting 5-21 from the floor. Nearly half of his points came from the foul line and it is clear that Harden will have to take his game to the next level if the Rockets are to close out the series on Saturday at Oracle.

In the 2016-2017 playoff season in-game 6 of the western conference semifinals, Harden was missing in action against the Spurs, shooting 2-11 from the floor and turning the ball over six times. He had six turnovers in game five against the Warriors, the Rockets were kind of lucky to win that game although their defense frustrated the Warriors offense.

As the series goes back to Oracle, Eric Gordon will start for Paul. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said the injury will not alter the way they go about their game. At the same time, he noted that the rotation could expand to eight or nine players. In game five, Gordon scored 24 points and he could be the overlooked key factor in-game six.

“We’re extremely confident, as usual, from top to bottom,” Harden said. “This is nothing new to us. Whether it’s myself or Chris or anybody else that has sat out a few games or whatnot, guys have stepped in and contributed very well.”

In the regular season, the Rockets went 15-6 without Paul and one of the major differences between the Rockets of this year and previous teams has been their defense. The Rockets finished in the top 10 in points allowed, yielding just under 104 points a game, whereas last year, they were in the bottom five in the NBA. Paul has averaged close to 20 points a game in this series and where will the Rockets get those points from in his absence?

The loss of Paul is big, but if the Rockets can play the tough defense they have played in this series and the entire season, they have a chance to dethrone the world champions. Harden will need to score at least 30, but any Rockets player who enters the game knows all points will mean so much.

Many are saying the Warriors are a slam dunk to win game six, I am not 100% convinced. Even with the Rockets issues facing them, the Warriors need to get back to their game in-game six by moving the ball and creating shots in the fast break. If the Rockets are within striking distance deep into the game, they have a chance. In game four, the Rockets were down by 12 in the third quarter and came back in Oracle arena. If game six resembles game three, the Rockets have no chance. The Rockets need to force turnovers like they did in-game five, it’s imperative to get the crowd subdued and to plant a seed of doubt. It is easy to make predictions on paper, but how the game trends, whether in the Warriors or Rockets direction will be key to who wins game six. The Rockets will come out ready to play even without Paul and there is so much on the line besides playing without one of the Rockets best players on the court, but the injury has taken center stage.

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