The Golden State Warriors have all the pressure.
It’s incredible, really. During the Game 3 blowout, the Warriors showed that they were the better team. The narrative that had slightly shifted after Game 2 overcorrected. Suddenly, the Warriors were so much better than the Rockets that a Gentlemen’s Sweep was inevitable and anyone predicting otherwise was not a smart basketball fan.
Mike D’Antoni stated that the Warriors were the team under pressure, not the Rockets. At face value, that’s an easy and obvious statement for a coach to make: “WE can play free and easy. THEY should be feeling the pressure.” Most people sniffed out the ulterior motive but MDA was made into a prophet as Houston outplayed Golden State down the stretch when the game got tight.
Cue Game 5, where the pressure shifted right back to Houston. The Warriors had been unable to handle their chance to take control of the series, but now it was Houston’s turn. In the biggest basketball game in Houston since 1997, Toyota Center was electric and once again the Rockets outplayed the Warriors late in crunch time. I was fortunate enough to get a ticket to Game 5 (shout out to Andrew Sidney!), and it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. The entire night was surreal.
Unfortunately, it came with the price of losing Chris Paul for at least Game 6. Rockets fans everywhere are hoping to get the Point God back healthy for Game 7 in Houston, but right now everything is uncertain. James Harden has to find his rhythm for Houston to have a shot tonight or on Monday. Eric Gordon has to have a complete game on offense where he shows up for both halves. And the Rockets need to get something from Luc Richard Mbah a Moute or whomever MDA uses off the bench.
So while Golden State has the weight of the series on their shoulders, they also have the luxury of facing a team without its best player in this series. Meanwhile, the Warriors are bound to get Andre Iguodala back tonight. Houston’s chances of pulling out a win in Oracle without Chris Paul are low, but they can play knowing that no one expects them to win this game.
Then again, after Game 3 no one really expected this series would see a Game 6.
Tip-off is at 8pm CT on TNT