Warriors force Game 7 as Finals berth slips through Rockets' grasp

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OAKLAND -- An opportunity lost. The Houston Rockets looked like they were on their way to the NBA Finals Saturday evening, taking an early 17-point lead over the reigning champion Golden State Warriors on their home court.

And then the wheels fell off Houston’s bus.

After trailing by 10 at the half, the Warriors throttled the Rockets in the final 24 minutes, outscoring the Houston 64-25 after the intermission.

“First two minutes of the third quarter, for sure,” Gerald Green said when asked when the game slipped away. “We had a 10-point lead. They scored eight points as fast as I can count to eight. We’ve got to just take that away.”

Fueled by the hot shooting of Klay Thompson, Golden State opened the third quarter with that eight point burst, before Mike D’Antoni called a timeout. They extended it to an 11-0 run to take their first lead since the first quarter at the 9:24 mark of the period. From that moment on, the champs never let up.

“That’s a good team over there,” veteran Trevor Ariza said following the game. “They’re never out of any game. We should have done a better job of holding onto the lead, holding onto the ball. When we don’t hold onto the ball, they get out, they get numbers and they get a lot of open looks.”

Houston was sloppy with the ball early, giving it away 11 times in the first half. But their transition defense was solid and they limited Golden State to just 4-of-18 shooting from behind the arc in the first 24 minutes.

They opened the third with loose handles and the Warriors made them pay. The Rockets finished the game with 21 turnovers that led to 23 points for the Warriors. Against a club like Golden State, you can’t make that many errors and hope to survive with a win.

“If you turn the ball over 21 times against my little son’s team, they’ll probably beat you,” Green said. “You can’t turn the ball over 21 times, especially not against this team.”

While the Rockets fumbled the ball away, the Warriors got hot from the perimeter, knocking down 12-for-20 from 3-point range after the break as they played to an engaged Oracle Arena crowd.

The absence of five-time All-Star Chris Paul hurt the Rockets. Without their point guard and leader, they completely fell apart. Paul pulled a hamstring in Houston’s Game 5 win over Golden State and his status for Game 7 is unknown at this time.

“Obviously, we hope to have our starting point guard back,” P.J. Tucker said. “But, if not, we need to be ready. I think we showed in the first half we can still play. It’s about remaining and keeping focus.”

Following the loss, the Rockets locker room was quiet, but not defeated. Despite the lopsided 115-86 final score, the series goes back to Houston for a Game 7 where the Rockets have had success against the Warriors.

“We’ve got what we want, now it’s up to us to go get it,” D’Antoni said following the loss. “It will be rocking and H-Town will be fired up. It’s up to us to knock them out.”

For one of these two teams, the 2017-18 season is down to 48 minutes of basketball. Houston will have the home crowd at the their back, but Golden State has been here before. It’s win or go home for the two best teams in the Western Conference.

Game Result/Schedule
Game 1 Warriors 119, Rockets 106
Game 2 Rockets 127, Warriors 105
Game 3 Warriors 126, Rockets 85
Game 4 Rockets 95, Warriors 92
Game 5 Rockets 98, Warriors 94
Game 6 Warriors 115, Rockets 86
Game 7 Houston -- Monday, May 28th at 6pm
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