2018 West Finals: Rockets push the defending champions to the brink

1. Houston Rockets 98 – 2. Golden State Warriors 94 (Rockets lead 3-2)

Well, one thing is for sure. The Houston Rockets aren’t afraid of the Golden State Warriors.

Despite the fact that James Harden was firing blanks, the Warriors couldn’t pull away. That’s because Chris Paul caught fire in the second half.

He scored back-to-back three-pointers to open the third quarter. The Warriors were up by one point in the third quarter. Paul sized up Steph Curry and tried to shake his point guard counterpart. The shot clock was winding down and Paul had no choice but to launch a tough, contested three-pointer over Curry. The shot went right through the hoop. As they ran back down the court, Paul shimmied right in front of Curry, mimicking Curry’s celebration during his third quarter runs in the past two games.

That was a definitive sign that the Rockets aren’t standing down. They showed that once again later in the game when they made repeated defensive stands when the Warriors were pushing.

With less than four minutes left in the game, Kevin Durant got a switch and had Paul sealed on the left block. As he bullied his way into the block and turned around to take a shot, Harden moved in and got a hand on Durant’s shot. A few minutes later, they locked down the Warriors all the way to the end of their shot clock. The Rockets switched and stuck to a Warrior forcing a bad shot attempt by Klay Thompson that turned into a last-second pass to Durant who bobbled the ball.

In another show of audacity, the Rockets refused to fold when the Warriors made their run. Golden State cut the lead down to just one point. Houston put the ball in the hands of Harden. Their superstar drove into the lane, sucked up three defenders and passed it off to Eric Gordon who calmly sank a three-pointer to extend the Rockets’ lead.

Gordon was impressive in Game 5. He also sank clutch free throws to put the game out of reach in the final seconds. He finished with 24 points off the bench for Houston.

The Warriors still had a chance to tie the game in the final moments but Curry rushed a pass to Draymond Green who dribbled the ball away off his foot. That turnover led to the game-sealing free throws by Gordon. That’s the second time Golden State has fumbled a shot at a crunch time basket. In Game 4, Durant passed up a shot. This time he didn’t even get a shot.

The defending champions are on the ropes. The leagues best team is punching back. With how Games 4 and 5 ended, one could even assume that this time, it’s the Warriors who are afraid of the Rockets.

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