When the Houston Rockets got ready for game six of their Western Conference semifinal series with the Golden State Warriors, their goal was to extend the series to seven games against an injured and struggling Warriors team. But the Rockets turned in a puzzling performance, not only getting eliminated from this postseason, but raising questions as to whether or not Houston will ever have a chance to get to the Finals as currently constructed.
Everything was looking like it would work out for the Rockets heading into game six. They were at home, where they had already won two games in the series. And they were taking on a Warriors team that had a number of things wrong with them. Their best player, Kevin Durant, was out due to injury. Klay Thompson and Steph Curry were both struggling with their shots. And the Rockets even managed to perform some gamesmanship to ensure that Curry’s shot would continue to struggle. But none of that mattered when the game ended.
To say that the Rockets losing this game was a disappointment would be an understatement. The Rockets allowed 33 points to Curry in the second half after he failed to score in the first half, including multiple three-point shots that put the Warriors ahead late in the fourth quarter. Those shots put the Warriors a step closer to the title, with the latest basketball odds to win the Finals having the Warriors as favorites to overcome all comers the rest of the way en route to another ring.
But for the Warriors, the future outlook is less positive. Though the Rockets and their ownership have vowed to win a title with James Harden as their best player, it is sounding harder and harder to believe that they will accomplish that goal. A big reason for that is the roster around Harden, which is spearheaded by an ageing Chris Paul and supporting players who have proven in consecutive seasons that they cannot make the plays necessary to beat the best teams in the league.
However, the Rockets do have Harden, who is one of the most explosive players in the league. All it will take is a postseason of him doing great things for the Rockets to get over the issues that have plagued them over the last two postseasons. And more importantly, the Rockets are in a position where they may be rid of one of their most fierce competitors in the Western Conference.
Kevin Durant looks like he is leaving the Warriors at the end of this season, with the Knicks appearing to be the favorites to acquire his services in the future. And Klay Thompson hasn’t been happy with his role on the team, with his contract situation sure to reduce the Warriors’ ability to bring in depth this off-season. That could open the door for the Rockets to have another chance to get to the NBA Finals, as long as they can hit shots and avoid another painful defeat like this one.