In every way possible, Warriors-Rockets has been the emotional roller coaster we needed


The Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets are finished with the drunken-sailors-on-leave portion of the Western Conference Finals, and now return to Houston for the gamiest Game 7 in recent NBA playoff history.
That’s gamiest, as in there is literally no telling what either team will do Monday night at the Toyota Center, how they will do it, how quickly they will do it, or why any of it happens.
That, though, is more a statement of how the games in Oakland played out. In Houston, the games have at least made some form of internal sense, at least based on the far less violent swings of momentum and more orderly swings of momentum.
Put another way, the Warriors loved the pace of the game that got them down 17 points in the first quarter, and winning the next three by 46 somehow made sense.
“It was coaching,” Steve Kerr said with a huge glob of sardonic on his shirt front. “We wanted to do that.”
Actually, what they wanted to do, in Kerr’s words, was to “get back to being us,” and that required getting the Rockets to break their own programming and play at a faster pace that could allow them to blitz the Warriors early but have to brace for a flurry of return blows.
So, helpfully, the Rockets did just that, getting James Harden hyper-involved in the offense again and finding a comfort level without Chris Paul that felt so good for them early and so dreadfully bad thereafter.
“The pace was really fast, and I thought the one positive of Houston getting off to that start that they did was that the pace was high,” Kerr said. “I didn’t like the poor defense we were playing but I like the pace, so once we could settle down and we got our defense in a better position, we started moving the ball and the game felt more like a Warriors game.”
That is, if anything in this series has felt like much of anything. Other than Games 4 and 5, which were Houston’s by nature and nurture, the games have been a disjointed, delightful mess. And for the Warriors, who make order out of chaos better than any other team, anything resembling rational flow works in Houston’s favor.
Put another way, here are the 12 quarters played in Oakland, followed by the 12 in Houston:
Warriors plus-9, plus-2, plus-10, plus-20, plus-9, minus-16,plus-17, minus-13, minus-17, plus-7, plus-17, plus-22.
Rockets: minus-1, plus-1, plus-7, plus-6, minus-5, minus-9, minus-2, minus-6, minus-6, plus-6, plus-1, minus-5.
In sum, the Warriors and Rockets have played with a basic level of decorum in Texas that they never came close to achieving in Oaktown. Whether those behaviors will continue in Game 7 is anyone’s guess, just as the health of both Chris Paul and Andre Iguodala is anyone’s guess.
This guess, based on 40 years of watching medical dramas and massive bluffing: Neither will play.
In other words, Game 7 will be dictated again by the primordial battle for tempo. Houston, without Paul, decided to abandon what had gotten them to the free-swing game of this series, and was punished for that profligacy. Now, with only a summer of joy or bitter recrimination on the table, the Rockets have to find a way to jam a stick in their own spokes and keep the game in the 90s (and the turnovers at about 12) for their own good.
And the Warriors have to go as far as letting the Rockets beat them like area rugs to get the speed of the game to their liking, without losing sight of the defense that makes their offense function.
This series has been, then, everything anyone could want emotionally, while leaving everyone thinking they’ve been cheated aesthetically. Now it becomes a simple matter of getting the point the other team can’t reach, by hook or crook, by plod or by sprint.

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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