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Rockets take 3-2 series lead over Warriors in another defensive dogfight

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It’s one of the biggest wins in franchise history.

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets took a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference Finals with a 98-94 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 Thursday night.

The game was highlighted by the defense of the Rockets as they controlled the tempo for majority of the game. Even with the Rockets shooting 37 percent from the field, the team was able to secure the victory.

The team was led by Eric Gordon, who scored a team-high 24 points off the bench on 6-15 shooting. Clint Capela also had his best game of the series on both ends of the floor with 12 points, 14 rebounds, and two huge blocks, one on Kevin Durant and the other on Draymond Green.

Despite James Harden (19 pts, 5-21 FG, 0-11 3PA) having a poor shooting night, the team was lifted up from its supporting cast.

Chris Paul redeemed himself in the second half after a first half in which he was 0-7 from the floor. He finished the second half shooting 6-13 and made four treys, some of which looked next to impossible, but dropped in anyway.

CP3 had a career-defining moment in the second half of this game as he led his team to come back against the Warriors and played until he simply could not anymore. Paul was removed from the game with less than a minute to go due to a hamstring injury. His status for Game 6 is uncertain at best.

The Rockets controlled the majority of the first half, building a lead as large as 11, but the Warriors erased it as halftime approached and it was 45-45 at halftime, thanks to some dreadful Houston shooting and execution. Golden State entered the fourth quarter up a point, but Houston was able to grab the lead back thanks in large part to CP3 and EG. The pair had 17 of the team’s 27 points in the fourth and the Rockets’ lead grew to as large as six with four minutes left in the game.

The Warriors scored five straight points to cut their deficit to a single point with 1:42 in the game, and Harden drove up the court with the ball in his hands.

With the opportunity to change the fortune of his career in his hands, he tangoed with Curry, penetrated to the elbow, and kicked it out to a wide-open Gordon who splashed the triple that put the Rockets out of reach.

Draymond Green would respond on the next possession with a three of his own, and it was the Rockets’ turn to respond with less than a minute to go. It was CP3’s time to shine, but he strained his hamstring as he missed the shot. With CP3 on the ground, the Warriors were up in numbers and had Quinn Cook wide open for three.

Miss. (The basketball gods were on Houston’s side. It was also not the first time he missed wide open with a period winding down. More smart Rockets D.)

With CP3 hobbling, the Rockets took it back up the court and Harden missed another three. That was a common theme tonight that was one of the few Rocket negatives. The Warriors got time to set up for the next possession down one with 22 seconds to go.

On the ensuing possession, Harden redeemed himself with solid defense on Curry as he missed a shot off the backboard and the rebound fell into Ariza’s possession. With time running out, the Warriors elected to foul and send Ariza to the line with 10 seconds left.

Because the basketball gods say we can’t have everything, Ariza splits his pair of free throws to give the Warriors one final chance. The Rockets may not have shot well from the field, but from the free throw line, the team was clutch. Not only did the team get to the line more in Game 5 than in any other game this series, but the team made 27 of their 32 free throw attempts, good enough for 84 percent.

As for the Warriors, the team shot better from the free throw line and the field tonight than in Game 4. The team shot 87 percent from the line, 45 percent from the floor and had 20-point nights from Durant, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson However, outside of the trio, the team scored just 20 points. The offense was not perfect, but it was light years better than Tuesday night.

So what did the Warriors in this time? Turnovers.

The Warriors committed 18 turnovers compared to the Rockets’ 12 and it cost the Dubs dearly, especially on the final major possession of the game. With 6.7 seconds left, the Warriors were down a deuce with a chance to tie or overtake the Rockets. However, Green fumbled the basketball and it landed in the hands of Gordon, who iced the game with two free throws to double the lead from 2 to 4.

The Rockets are now one win away from the NBA Finals, the closest they’ve been to the championship since 1995, the last time the franchise won it all. It’s so close the Rockets can taste it, but work still needs to be done. One of these final two games in the series needs to end in a Rockets win in order to advance. A recovered Chris Paul would certainly help.

The first opportunity for the clinch comes Saturday night at Oracle Arena. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. CT.