They say that a playoff series doesn’t start until the road team wins a game. Well, so far this series has been fairly dull if that’s your criteria, but the rest of us have watched four coin flip games that have been ultimately won by the home team.
James Harden posted one of his best playoff games in Game 4, and P.J. Tucker did all the dirty work for Houston to give them the juice to get across the line. Austin Rivers has done a great job limiting Steph Curry’s effectiveness so far in the series, and Eric Gordon wasn’t excellent offensively in Game 4 but defended well and had a spurt in the second half that gave Houston some (temporary) breathing room.
Houston still hasn’t gotten much out of Clint Capela or Chris Paul in this series, and it seems that the former has little to offer. He’s unplayable against the Hamptons 5 lineup of Golden State and hasn’t fared better than Nene when Kevon Looney is on the court. With both teams struggling to find guys to play, the Warriors aren’t going to stop playing their best lineup, which is killer for a Rockets team that could really use Capela’s size defensively. You could tell that the Warriors found something in the second half when they kept attacking the basket with the Swiss center on the bench. It’s up to Capela and the coaching staff to find a way to be effective against the Warriors. Otherwise, these two wins are fool’s gold.
Rebounding has clearly been a major factor, as the winning team has also won the rebounding edge in each contest so far in this series. The Rockets keep outshooting the Warriors by volume and have defended well. If they can limit turnovers too, they will have a real shot at this game.
Two years ago, Houston was in a similar situation against the San Antonio Spurs. The teams split the first four games (with both winning once on the road), before meeting in Game 5 for control of the series. Houston led throughout but allowed the Spurs back into the game and lost in OT in devastating fashion. Harden, who was possibly concussed or at least exhausted, gave nothing in Game 6 and Houston folded at Toyota Center.
Losing Game 5 as the road team is a tough blow. The prospect of having to go back home and win just for a chance to go back to the other team’s arena for a draining Game 7 is one that doesn’t excite many players. Houston brought in CP3 partially to keep the team focused in these situations. Plus, Houston has seen firsthand that teams can overcome that kind of adversity when they watched the Warriors accomplish that exact feat last year in the Western Conference Finals. So while this feels like a must-win and Houston obviously wants to win it, the Rockets should feel a little less pressure than the Warriors tonight.
Tip-off is at 9:30pm CT on TNT