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 media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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