The Rockets missed a golden opportunity on the road in game five of the best of seven Western Conference semifinals on Wednesday. The Warriors were down both Kevin Durant and Draymond Green in the fourth quarter and the Rockets were unable to get a win in Oakland, losing 101-97 and finding themselves on the brink of elimination.
The series is far from over and the status of Durant, who suffered a non-contact calf injury, will be a major factor, but this was certainly a game that was the Rockets for the taking, especially after coming all the way back from more than 20 down in the first half. They return to Houston for game six on Friday.
Rockets Third Quarter
Despite going down by as much as 21 in the first half, the Rockets had a furious comeback in the third quarter to get back in the game, outscoring the Warriors 29 to 15. Unfortunately...
Warriors Fourth Quarter
...the Rockets could not sustain that momentum and the Warriors showed a very gutsy effort out dueling the Rockets in the final period mostly on hustle points, grabbing loose balls and offensive rebounds every time they needed it. The Rockets just could not close them out and James Harden only managed three points in the quarter.
Klay Thompson and Steph Curry hadn't had a good series until game five. The pair combined for 52 points and they needed every one of them.
One of the critical deciding factors in this series has been offensive rebounding. Whichever team wins that battle wins the game and that was the Warriors on Wednesday. The Rockets have been a poor rebounding team all season, but to not get key rebounds down the stretch with both Kevin Durant and Draymond Green out, it's nearly inexcusable.
Road Teams Again
Once more, the road team was unable to close out a game. These two teams are so evenly matched, it's not a surprise that the home team has gotten the edge, but the Rockets will have to figure out a way to win in Oakland if they want to win this series. But first, they have to win again in Houston.
Draymond Green Because Always
Is there any more annoying player in the league than Green? The answer is no.
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Inability to Close
After regaining the lead, the Rockets seemed tentative in the fourth quarter, Harden went quiet and they were unable to secure a loose ball despite the Warriors missing two of their starters. With the chance to win and close out at home, the Rockets fizzled at the time they needed to be at their best.
Game Five Injuries
In what was arguably the turning point in last year's Western Conference Finals between Golden State and Houston, Chris Paul pulled a hamstring in game five and was unable to return in the series. The Rockets lost in seven games. This year, it was Durant who suffered a lower leg injury in the third quarter. Much like last year, the team with the injury still managed to win game five, but what is to come next will depend on Durant's status in games six and seven.