Houston Rockets vs Golden State Warriors: Lineups, preview & prediction 5/25/18

The Houston Rockets look to win their first conference title in 23 years without Chris Paul as they try to oust the defending champion Golden State Warriors on Saturday.

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(Photo Credit: Keith Allison)

Houston’s bid to win their first Western Conference title since repeating as NBA champions in 1995 took a severe hit Friday when they announced starting guard Chris Paul will miss this contest with a strained hamstring. Paul, playing in the conference finals for the first time in his 13-year career, suffered the injury in the final minute of Thursday’s 98-94 win that gave the Rockets a 3-2 series lead.

An already-short rotation will be further challenged as Eric Gordon steps into the spot created by Paul’s injury. Gordon, who had a team-high 24 points in the Game 5 victory, was one of only two reserves used by coach Mike D’Antoni and played over 36 minutes.

The Rockets overcame 37.2 percent shooting as they turned 16 Warriors turnovers into 18 points. James Harden had 19 points despite shooting five for 21 overall and missing all 11 of his 3-point attempts. The All-Star guard and MVP frontrunner has missed 20 consecutive attempts from beyond the arc going back to the 6:30 mark of the second quarter in Houston’s Game 4 victory.

Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson accounted for 74 of Golden State’s 94 points as they sorely missed Andre Iguodala helping to facilitate the offense for a second straight game. The 2015 NBA Finals MVP is listed as questionable for this game with a lateral leg contusion, and Kevon Looney took just two shots in 22 minutes Thursday night, making them both.

This is Golden State’s first elimination game since losing Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals to Cleveland as they squandered a 3-1 series lead. The Warriors have not lost an elimination game in the Western Conference since Paul’s Clippers beat them in Game 7 in the first round in 2014, and Golden State overcame a 3-1 series deficit versus Oklahoma City in the 2016 conference finals.

Should Golden State stave off elimination, the series will return to Houston for a decisive Game 7 on Monday night.