Warriors lead 3-2
How the Rockets can still beat the Warriors
Falling behind 3-2 in a series when you are the road team is tough. Winning two games in a row against the defending champions is impossible enough, but doing it without homecourt advantage in a possible Game 7 is asking a lot. There's no denying that the Rockets have become the firm underdog in this series heading into Toyota Center on Friday.
However, it's certainly not impossible. In fact, the Cavaliers were down 3-2 when they were going back to Cleveland for Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals. It's been done before. To do it however, the Rockets need to be on their A game and treat Game 6 as the end-all-be-all. To do that, a few things have to happen.
1) Clint Capela has to show up
The Rockets have gotten very little out of Clint Capela in this series. In this series, Capela is averaging 8.6 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 0.6 blocks on 55.1% true shooting. The Rockets have been a negative 13.9 per 100 possessions with Capela on the floor. Draymond Green has virtually took away his lob game and defensively, Capela's been played off the floor.
The best version of the Rockets involves Capela in the floor in crunch time situations. Head coach Mike D'Antoni knows this and it's why he continues to give Capela playing time late in games. Playing P.J. Tucker at center has worked out great, but the Rockets have been their best all season with Clint Capela closing games and being a consistent release valve for the offense.
2) Chris Paul has to score
It sounds like such a dumb, simplistic thing to say, but the Rockets need their 9-time All-Star to play like a 9-time All-Star. Eric Gordon has done a fantastic job at picking up the slack on the offensive end, averaging 22.2 points on 61.0% true shooting. However, there are spots on the floor that Gordon can't get to that Paul can.
Paul has been plenty impactful in this series without the scoring, but the Rockets need every bit of vintage Chris Paul they can get if they want a chance at bringing this series back to Oracle Arena. Playing great defense, facilitating the basketball, getting key deflections, and grabbing offensive rebounds is great but 14.6 points on 53.8% true shooting isn't enough for a star of Paul's caliber. It's possible he's lost a step, but Paul can still create separation for tough mid-range jumpers better than anyone on the Rockets.
3) Houston has to dominate the glass
The reason the Rockets won Games 3 and 4 is simple: they won the rebounding battle. Every game this series, the team with the most rebounds has won the game. Giving extra offensive possessions to the best offensive team of all time doesn't make much sense.
The Rockets had several key moments down the stretch of Game 5 where they could not secure a defensive rebound and it cost them dearly. This series has largely come down to a few possessions every game, which is why having as many as you can benefits the Rockets.
4) James Harden, P.J. Tucker, and Eric Gordon have to continue doing what they're doing
Other than a few possessions here and there, James Harden has largely been fantastic in this series. Averaging 34.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.8 steals on 59.8% true shooting, there's not much more you could ask for from Harden. He's answered the bell in every way.
P.J. Tucker has been an absolute monster in this series. As a small-ball center for a good percentage of this series, Tucker has grabbed 9.0 rebounds per game with 2.6 of those being offensive. Tucker has been tasked with the job of defending Kevin Durant and has matched up admirably with him and Houston as a team has defended an incredible 19.8 points per 100 possessions better with Tucker on the floor. Tucker is also shooting an insane 47.4% from three-point range in this series.
And Eric Gordon is just stealing the show in this series. Gordon isn't shooting the three-ball very well, but his driving to the rim has kept him extremely efficient. Because of the poor three-point shooting (33.9%), Gordon may be the only one from this group who has room for improvement incredibly enough.
Harden has to be find Looney earlier, box him out, and grab this rebound. https://t.co/ngZCZsx95Z— Salman Ali (@Salman Ali)1557386845.0
Eric Gordon's been so good at getting to the basket in this series. Surprisingly still shooting only 33.9% from 3-P… https://t.co/cVslX4J874— Salman Ali (@Salman Ali)1557389422.0
It's unfortunate that we have to talk about injuries being the possible swinging force for a team, but they play a factor. According to Shams Charania, Kevin Durant suffered a right calf strain during Game 5. The Rockets would rather beat the Warriors at full health, but if Durant were to miss Game 6, you'd be hard-pressed to find somebody from the Rockets complaining about not having to play Durant.
Of course, luck doesn't have to come into play with a missed game from Durant. It could also come in the form of a poor shooting night from Klay Thompson or Steph Curry. It could come in the form of hot three-point shooting. Whatever the case, having a little luck go Houston's way would go a long way in tying up this series.