It looked for a moment like the Golden State Warriors weren’t going to get back to the NBA Finals, but a comeback effort earned them a fourth straight trip as the beat the Houston Rockets 101-92 in Game 7.
Houston were actually in control in the first half and had Golden State reeling, but everything started to shift in the Warriors’ favour in the third quarter and the Rockets could never recover.
Here are the key factors that decided the contest.
What went right for the Warriors
Another third-quarter run
Golden State exploding in the third quarter, especially in games they’ve trailed at halftime, has become like clockwork. So even though they went into halftime of Game 7 in an 11-point hole, you knew a run was inevitable after the intermission. And that’s exactly what happened.
The Warriors outscored Houston 33-17 in the third period as Stephen Curry caught fire, tallying 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting, including 4-of-5 from deep, to put them ahead.
If you remove the third quarter, the Rockets edged Golden State 77-68 for the game. But beating the Warriors is just as much about surviving that third-quarter charge as anything else.
The Warriors out-scored the Rockets by 68 points in the seven third quarters in the series. And, by my count, the Warriors out-scored Houston by just 63 points in the entire series.— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) May 29, 2018
Greatest shooters for a reason
It’s not often you’ll see a game decided so heavily by the shooting discrepancy between the teams. While the Rockets couldn’t buy a 3-pointer for much of the contest, the Warriors’ sharpshooters showed why they’re considered some of the greatest marksmen in history.
It seemed like Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Curry hit contested look after contested look in the second half, which was particularly defeating for Houston when juxtaposed with the their own wide open misses on the other end.
As unfair as it felt, that’s just how it goes against Golden State sometimes. They’re so talented and such good shooters that even air-tight defence – which the Rockets played a lot of in Game 7 and in the series as a whole – couldn’t stop the barrage of triples.
What went wrong for the Rockets
Historically poor shooting
The Rockets started the contest hitting 3-of-5 from the deep, but their shooting went downhill in a hurry as they hit just 4-of-39 the rest of the way, including a playoff record 27 consecutive misses. Most of those shots were clean looks too. But whether it was James Harden (2-of-13), Eric Gordon (2-of-12) or Trevor Ariza (0-of-9), no one could connect.
You can’t blame Houston for living and – in this case – dying by the 3 because that’s what their offence was built on all season. And it worked more often than not. It was just the worst time to go ice cold.
I mean... This pretty much explains it. pic.twitter.com/B08JMyBWsc— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 29, 2018
It may be a cop out to use a guy who didn’t even play as a reason why a team lost, but Chris Paul‘s absence was felt incredibly in Game 7.
On a night the Rockets’ shooting went south, the team was in desperate need of another creator next to Harden who could score on his own and keep the offence afloat during their struggles. A healthy Paul would have been able to provide just that and it’s fair to wonder how different this series ends up if he didn’t suffer the hamstring strain at the end of Game 5.
Unfortunately, we’ll never know if Houston at full strength could have ended the Warriors’ run.
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