Steph Curry and the Warriors got off the hook. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Five quick thoughts on the Rockets' season ending 101-92 loss to the Warriors:
Die by the 3: The Rockets lost this series because they could not hit wide open 3s. It was really nothing the Warriors did defensively; the Rockets simply could not hit from beyond the arc. At one point they missed 27 straight 3s. That's almost impossible to do; a shot or two has to fall by accident. It was a key factor in the loss. They finished 7 of 44 in Game 7.
Elimination James: There is a saying in playoff hockey; your best players have to be your best players. Same goes for the NBA. James Harden might have been the Rockets best player, but he sure did not play like it. He scored 32 of the most empty points you have ever seen. He was just 12 of 29 from the field and 2 of 13 on 3s. He also had several bad turnovers that led to easy points the other way. If he plays like regular season Harden, the Rockets win this series.
Third and long: The Rockets continuously were outscored in the third quarter and it cost them the series. They took an 11-point lead into the third and were outscored 33-16 Mondy night, and that was that.
Bad time to be awful: Trevor Ariza is a solid role player, but the Rockets needed him to contribute at least some offernse. In Game 7, he scored as many points as everyone reading this combined. He was 0-for-12 from the field and 0-of-9 on 3-pointers. Harden will get the bulk of the blame, but even a below average Ariza would have given them a shot.
The positives: The Rockets did something no one else has done since Kevin Durant showed up in Golden State -- pushed the Warriors to seven games. But without Chris Paul, they simply could not get it done. They had their chances, and if just a couple players had showed up, it would have been them playing Cleveland, not the Warriors.
The bottom line: The Rockets had every chance to win the series. With a healthy Chris Paul, they probably do. But Paul is rarely healthy, and he was gone when they needed him most. In the end, it was a fun ride, but it could have been so much more.
Jamal Shead hit a short follow shot with 0.4 seconds left and No. 1 Houston beat Oklahoma 87-85 on Saturday night, giving coach Kelvin Sampson a victory over one of his former schools.
Shead missed a driving layup attempt, but corralled the rebound and put the Cougars back ahead after they blew a 15-point lead. Emanuel Sharp tipped away a desperation pass by Oklahoma’s Milos Uzan as time expired.
“The main thing (on the last shot) was to get it to the rim,” Sampson said. “We weren’t going to shoot anything outside of 5 feet. There were three ways to win that game — a whistle, make the shot or (grab) an offensive rebound and put it in — and we got the third one.”
Sampson credited the result to Houston’s “winning DNA. We had a lot of things go against us tonight. … We were just plugging the holes in the boat up.”
L.J. Cryer led Houston (26-3, 13-3 Big 12) with 23 points, making 5 of 9 3-pointers. J’Wan Roberts added 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting, and Shead scored 14 points. Houston shot 56.7% from the field and Oklahoma was at 52.7%.
Rivaldo Soares had 16 points for Oklahoma (19-10, 7-9). Le’Tre Darthard had 15 points, finishing 5 of 7 from 3-point range.
Sampson coached Oklahoma from 1994 to 2006 and ranks second in program history with 279 wins and first in winning percentage (.719). Before Saturday, he’d never coached against the Sooners, but Houston’s entry into the Big 12 for this basketball season provided that opportunity.
Sampson received a warm welcome as he entered the Lloyd Noble Arena court, with many fans applauding, cheering and standing. Just before player introductions, Sampson and his three assistants with Oklahoma ties — former players Hollis Price, Quannas White and Kellen Sampson, his son — were individually recognized with announcements and pictured on the video board.
“The memories that I will take from here are just amazing,” Kelvin Sampson said. “Oklahoma will always be home in a lot of ways.”
Houston made its first week this season at No. 1 a successful one, with two wins. The Cougars are a game ahead of No. 8 Iowa State in the conference standings with two games left in the regular season and remain in the conversation for the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Houston has won eight of the last nine games it has played as the No. 1-ranked team and is 35-5 overall while atop the AP poll.
Oklahoma dropped its second game of the week against a top-10 opponent, having lost 58-45 at Iowa State on Wednesday night.
The Sooners pushed Houston to the limit. Houston led 67-52 with 12:01 left, but the Sooners methodically closed that gap and Javian McCollum’s layup with 11.8 seconds left tied it at 85. It came after a hustle play by Uzan, who tracked down a rebound off a missed free throw and threw it off the leg of Sharp, allowing it to carom out of bounds.
Oklahoma coach Porter Moser said the vibe in the Sooners’ locker room was “tough. It wasn’t like they were happy to be close. They’re hurting. That’s a good sign. … That’s the elite of the elite and we’ve got to find a way to win that. That’s my job.
“I thought they were resilient battling back. Houston made tough shots, open shots, good shots. They do a lot of good things … but I thought we did too. We played the best team in the country, but we fell short. The margin of error when you play a team that good is small.”
Godwin went 6 of 6 from the field and led Oklahoma with 17 points, missing only the one free throw in six attempts as well. He also had seven rebounds.
Houston: Sampson surely appreciated the warm welcome from fans on his return to Oklahoma, but he’s undoubtedly glad to have the emotional game against the Sooners over with. Now he can push the Cougars to focus on finishing the regular season strong and prepare them for the postseason.
Oklahoma: A win over the nation’s No. 1 team might have pushed the Sooners up a line or two in NCAA tournament seeding, but the loss shouldn’t damage their postseason hopes too much. Oklahoma probably needs at least one win next week — at home against Cincinnati or at Texas — to stay comfortably off the NCAA bubble heading into the Big 12 Tournament.
Houston: At Central Florida on Wednesday night.
Oklahoma: Host Cincinnati on Tuesday night.