The NBA world was treated with another blockbuster, this time in the form of game 5 of the Western Conference Finals in Houston. The game started out with Houston firing on all cylinders, amassing a solid 10-point lead as the first quarter came to a close. But, this would soon change as Golden State would rally back to eventually gain the lead.
The game went back and forth between the two juggernauts through the fourth quarter. At the start of the 4th, the Warriors had a 4-point lead, but by the 2-minute mark, they had lost their lead to Houston. Houston would maintain the lead for the rest of the game, en route to victory and a 3-2 lead in the series.
While it remained close, it seemed that whenever the game got tight, the Rockets would make another shot or force a Golden State turnover to maintain the lead. Simply put, the Rockets’ late game execution was phenomenal, both offensively and defensively. The biggest key to the Rockets’ success was clearly the electric performances by both Clint Capella and Eric Gordon.
Both of these guys played great. Capella finally got opportunities to score and exploit mismatches against smaller players like Stephen Curry and Quinn Cook. He also was able to get a solid 14 rebounds, including 3 offensive rebounds and contributed defensively with 2 blocked shots. For Gordon, he led the Rockets with multiple critical shots- scoring 10 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter. While James Harden and Chris Paul were amazing as per usual, it is clear that the difference in this game was the work of Capella and Gordon.
For the Warriors, the biggest issue they dealt with was a lack of late game execution, as well as lack of ball security- turning over the ball 18 times. In particular, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant did not show up in the closing minutes of the game.
While Curry did score 7 points in the 4th, he only had 2 points in the final five minutes of the game. Durant was even worse, scoring just 2 points in the final quarter of play.
Lastly, it was clear how important Andre Iguodala is to this Golden State team. His absence clearly made the Warriors’ defense significantly weaker, having to either utilize a defensive liability (Cook, Looney, Bell) or an offensive liability (Livingston).
While the Rockets will be without Chris Paul for Game 6, it is clear that if the Warriors continue to play sloppy and inefficient basketball, they will lose against this Rockets team again. For the Rockets, they hold all of the momentum and as long as Chris Paul is available for game 7, they should have an opportunity to finally dethrone the Warriors, even if it goes to a game 7, albeit in at home in Houston.