NBA WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

Fred Faour: D'Antoni, Rockets in uncharted territory for Game 7

Mike D'Antoni probably won't have Chris Paul tonight, but he has a chance. Rockets.com

It all comes down to one game. 

The Rockets got off to a hot start, but withered in the second half, falling to the Warriors 115-86 Saturday night.

The end result is a Game 7 Monday night at Toyota Center with a spot in the NBA Finals on the line. This is why the Rockets got home court -- for this game. 

Regardless of what happens, it has been a remarkable ride. The Rockets have had an amazing run, and if you had said before the season started they would host a Game 7 with a trip to the Finals on the line, anyone would have taken it.

The scene in the building should be insane. The Warriors are six point favorites to end the Rockets season, presumably because Chris Paul is unlikely to play. In the Warriors' three wins, all the games were blowouts. The Rockets won Game 2 in a rout, then gutted it out with tough efforts in Games 4 and 5. 

To win Game 7, they will need a similar effort. Strong defense, a big game from the supporting cast and some clutch plays down the stretch. Without Paul, they can still win. But it will take their best effort of the series. 

Make no mistake, the Warriors are favored for a reason. But if the Rockets can play their A game and keep it close, the Warriors have proven vulnerable in the tight games. 

They key might be what Mike D'Antoni comes up with. By now, both teams know what the other will do and it will likely come down to execution. If D'Antoni can create some wrinkles, it might make the difference. This is uncharted territory for D'Antoni, whose other conference finals appearances resulted in a five-game loss to the Spurs and a six-game loss to the Mavericks more than 10 years ago in Phoenix.

Under Steve Kerr, the Warriors have gone to Game 7s twice, both in 2016. They beat the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, then lost to the Cavs in the Finals. So the experience edge goes to Kerr and the Warriors. But since Kevin Durant arrived, this is the first time the Warriors have been pushed beyond five games.

As a sports fan, this is all you can ask for. One game, the best against the best.

For a shot at a title.

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The Marlins are showing interest in Yuli Gurriel. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

As the reporting date for pitchers and catchers draws near, there are still some decisions hanging over the Astros. One of them is whether or not to bring back Yuli Gurriel. “La Piña,” as he's affectionately called, is 38 years old. He turns 39 in June. His leadership and instincts cannot be matched. The man has seen a ton of baseball and comes from a family of baseballers. So, what's the holdup?

Enter the Miami Marlins. The ownership group, led by Bruce Sherman, is undoubtedly trying to capitalize on the heavy Cuban population in the Miami area. Bringing in the Cuban Babe Ruth is a great way to attempt to get more fan engagement. The franchise has only been to the playoffs three times. First two times (1997 and 2003), they won it all. In 2020, they were swept in the NLDS. They're most likely offering him a ridiculous amount of money to come to a team with a losing history. Knowing the Marlins are willing to hand out stupid money, would you blame La Piña for taking one last ridiculous payday?

Think about it. He's got two rings and made a ton of money. He can safely retire very comfortably. The lure to come back for another year or two would definitely be about money. The Marlins aren't a real threat in the next couple of seasons to do anything, but are willing to pay me like I'm still a star? Plus, I'm closer to my home country with all my family and friends? Sign me up!

This is where the Astros have to make a decision. Bring Yuli back for another year or move on. If he follows through with his last four years, this should be a bounce back year. Since 2016, his first year in Houston and MLB, he's hit .262, .299, .291, .298, .232 (pandemic shortened season), .319, and .242 last season. The man is a professional hitter. He knows how to work an at-bat and can drive pitchers nuts. His defense isn't bad either. He's a more than capable first baseman.

This won't win me any favor, but I think it's time to move on. Yuli will always have a place in my heart because he was a major factor in the Astros' two World Series wins. Last season's title run was even more satisfying since it helped silence the haters. That was the mouthwash that got rid of the stench of the sign stealing scandal. Piña was there through it all.

Now, it's time to start transitioning towards the future. Piña, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Justin Verlander, and Lance McCullers Jr were the only holdovers from the 2017 team. Verlander was one of the guys the Mets backed the Brinks truck up for this offseason. Altuve (32), Bregman (28), and McCullers (29) should be all that's left of that group. While it would've been great to have Verlander (39) back, the emergence of the youth movement in the pitching staff made his loss somewhat expendable. At some point, the nostalgia wears off. Father Time and Mother Nature are both undefeated. If they were to bring Piña back, he should be a part timer transitioning into a hitting coach. Careers come to an end. It's time to start looking at his exit.

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