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Eric Gordon was phenomenal in the Rockets game five win over the Warriors.
Eric Gordon was phenomenal in the Rockets game five win over the Warriors.
Photo by Eric Sauceda

Rockets Take Game Five, One Game Away from Finals: 4 Winners, 4 Losers

For the second straight game in this series, fans got a nail biter. Fortunately for folks in Houston, the Rockets got the win 98-94 and are one game away from the NBA Finals. It may have come at a high cost, however, because Chris Paul went down in the fourth quarter with an apparent hamstring injury. He did not return and his availability for game six in Oakland (or for the rest of the series and playoffs for that matter) is in doubt.

Still, the game began on an emotional note as Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta and rapper musician Travis Scott spoke to the crowd including a large group of kids from Santa Fe High School. But, the best moments came on the floor, and with two games to win one (and the Rockets haven't dropped two games in a row since January), the Rockets are close to punching their ticket for the Finals.

Losers:

4. Chris Paul's hamstring.

Say a prayer. Do some meditation. Get a voodoo doll. Whatever you have to do, send your thoughts directly to the hamstring of Chris Paul, who injured his leg on a shot late in the fourth quarter. He did not look happy and was described after the game as "worried." On his leg might rest the fate of this team, so as Coach Norman Dale said when Strap was saying a prayer for Ollie's free throws in Hoosiers, "Make it a good one, Strap."

3. James Harden's three point shooting eye.

0-20. That is what James Harden has shot for his last 20 three pointers. The Rockets keep shooting threes. That's what they do and Harden is bound to turn it around. But, his outside shot has been ugly the last couple games.

2. Best offenses in basketball.

For the two best offenses in the NBA, the last couple games have been extreme defensive battles with neither team reaching 100 in either. Granted, these are also two of the best defensive games in the league, but no one expected this type of play from Golden State and Houston.

1. Warriors mystique.

The perception that the Warriors would just turn it on and win has been pervasive since the regular season. Given the fact that they have won two of the last three NBA titles, it makes sense. But, the Rockets have definitely put a dent in that over the course of this series.

Winners:

4. The shimmy.

One of the best things about the NBA is how the players take it to one another in such close proximity. After a big three, this Chris Paul imitation of Steph Curry's "shimmy" even got a smile from Curry.

3. Eric Gordon

Where would the Rockets be without their best bench player? Gordon, who struggled through much of the first two playoff series, has been fantastic the last couple games on both ends of the floor. While he struggled with his long-range shooting, his defense was outstanding, he hit big shots in the fourth quarter and finished with a team high 24 points.

2. JJ and JT

While it was a tad conspicuous that TV announcers didn't bother to mention JJ Watt's girlfriend, Kealia Ohai, a professional soccer player for the Dash sitting next to him all night, it wasn't all that surprising that Watt and his buddy, Justin Timberlake, were hamming it up all night.

1. Team defense.

Make no mistake, this is some of the best defense we have seen the Rockets play since Jeff Van Gundy was coaching the team. They have held one of the best offensive teams in NBA history to under 100 points twice in a row. They were stifling all over the floor and it has been the key to their success in this series.

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