Warriors lead 3-2

How the Rockets can still beat the Warriors

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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.




5) Luck

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.

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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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