Regardless of the outcome of the game tonight, the 2017-18 Houston Rockets have succeeded beyond any reasonable expectation. In this playoff series they have pushed two things: Kevin Durant’s hairline, and the warriors to 7 games, even going up 3-2 in the series before dropping the ball 2 nights ago. Harden’s coexistence with backcourt mate Chris Paul, and Clint Capela’s growth this season has elevated this team to the Western Conference Finals, and the question asked yesterday by colleague Jackson Parker, AKA “Porker”, on if KD ruined the NBA will be answered.
This time last season, the Rockets were coming off of a 4-2 defeat against the San Antonio Spurs and Kawhi Leonard’s two functional hamstrings (RIP). James Harden was solid, averaging 24.5 points, 4.7 rebounds 9.7 assists against Kawhi’s 23.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists. James Harden shot .41/.30/ .83 which is not bad when you take into account Kawhi’s oven mitts for hands and the Rocket’s second best player in that series was Trevor Ariza. Unfortunately, “Not bad” doesn’t take you to the Conference Finals nowadays. (Exception: Eastern Conference Finals)
(If you want a reminder on how otherworldly Kawhi is, he locked up Harden and shot +8% better on field goals and a whopping +15% (!!!!!) on three pointers)
Don’t get me wrong, Ariza is phenomenal in his role as a three and D player, but having a secondary creator in Chris Paul is the why behind Houston’s dominance this year. Harden has always been phenomonal in the regular season, euro stepping all over his ex-OKC teammates and into the MVP conversation, but Chris Paul and Clint Capela have alleviated the pressure on Harden this playoffs.
It is going to be important to watch the play down low. While this game will largely be decided by 3 point efficiency, boards are going to be another major factor in who wins the game. the NBA’s most rambunctious goon Draymond Green will attempt to flamboyantly dishearten the rockets unsung heroes PJ Tucker and Clint Capela in a battle of some of the most mettlesome big men in the league. This is going to be an absolute brawl folks, these big boys will certainly be entertaining to watch.
Will Chris Paul play?
I understand the Houston Rockets have Chris Paul as “doubtful” for game 7 but I have to switch it up and say it is “doubtful” for Chris Paul NOT to play tonight. This man blew a 3-1 lead in the playoffs and never made the conference finals before this season, much less the NBA finals. Every year since 2011 he has been blown out of either the first or second rounds and every year since 2015 he faces questions on whether or not his team can beat GS in a best of 7 series. IT IS GAME 7. WINNER GOES TO THE FINALS. LOSER GOES HOME. Chris Paul’s been a playoff loser for too long. You may blame that on baby Blake or the mediocre play of the other dunker from lob city (DeAndre Jordan) who don’t fit the mold of a modern NBA star, but it is also CP3’s fault for not being better (sad truth). This is a major opportunity for him to shed this label and solidify his Hall of Fame status. Also, if Harden continues missing 3’s at this rate (20 consecutive missed three’s), Htown’s cast of gritty 3 point mercenaries who have been bailed out by the Point God’s astounding play thus far in the competition will not be able to carry Harden to the finals.
What does James Harden have to do to help his team tonight?
Golden State’s switch heavy defence has locked up Harden on the perimeter. Anytime you have a super star shooting 26.2% from the three point line you know you’re doing something right. Pushing the tempo and making GS play transition defence will be key, since players like Clint Capela, Trevor Ariza and even PJ Tucker all feast off of easy transition opportunities. Harden cannot settle for contested step back 3’s this game. Although it would be nice to see the beard stir the pot on an isolation play against chef Curry himself.
So, you think Rockets will win?
We have been asking “can X team beat the Warriors in a 7 game series” since they won their first Championship in 2015. The Warriors have lost one playoff SERIES in 3 years. That’s pretty damning.
Final Thoughts From the Sideline Observer
2 Mvp’s > 1 Mvp (depending on Chris Paul’s injury status)
It is important to remember Andre Iguodala is going to be out for Game 7, as he has been a solid contributor to Golden State’s playoff success in the past.
Also, if one of Draymond Green, Clint Capela, Kevin Durant or PJ Tucker is not ejected tonight the game will be replayed this Wednesday.
Overall, this series will be decided by Chris Paul’s ability to play through injuries and who will be able to hoist up and convert on the ever more lucrative three point shots.
Predictions from the Sideline Observer Staff:
Warriors 107, Rockets 100 – Kieran Shindig
Warriors 110, Rockets 105 – Jackson Parker
Warriors 111, Rockets 103 – Sean Hannegan
Rockets 112, Warriors 109 – Greg King
Rockets 107, Warriors 103 – Cole Masse
-Greg King, Kieran Shindig