The Golden State Warriors have forced a Game 7 on the road after they rocked the Chris Paul-less Houston Rockets in Game 6, 115-86. After a disastrous 39-22 first-quarter start, the Warriors recovered just in time to save their season. The Splash Brothers, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, powered the Dubs offense as they combined for 64 points and 14 3-pointers. Kevin Durant continued to struggle with his shot as he went just 6-of-17, but he did still finish with 23 points.
Meanwhile, the Rockets just ran out of gas without Paul helping James Harden carry the load on offense. Harden had 32 points, but he went just 10-of-24 from the field and couldn’t sustain his strong start through to the second half. Eric Gordon had 19 points in place of the injured Paul, while Trevor Ariza had 14 on 6-of-18 shooting. Paul is likely a game-time decision to play in Game 7, but even if he does play, he is not going to be anywhere close to 100 percent.
Three keys to the game
James Harden – With CP3 unlikely to be a factor in this Game 7, Harden will need to play the game of his life for the Rockets to pull this game out. He’s shown in this series that he will still slow down and tire out during the later stages of games. But without Paul, the Rockets can’t afford another weak finish from their MVP.
Warriors’ clutch play – Speaking of weak finishes, the Warriors were guilty of those during their losses in Games 5 and 6 as they were unable to deliver down the clutch. If this game goes down to the wire again — which is certainly possible considering it’s a Game 7 on the road — the Warriors must find a way to execute a lot better than they have been in order to put the Rockets away.
Rockets’ supporting cast – Aside from Harden, the Rockets just have to get more from their role players without Paul. Ariza, PJ Tucker, and Clint Capela, in particular, need to support Harden and Gordon better offensively by knocking down a few more shots. It will be to the Rockets’ benefit that they’ll be at home, where role players usually perform much better.
Matchup to watch
Klay Thompson vs Eric Gordon – It hasn’t been a great series for Thompson, but he picked the perfect time to finally erupt for his best performance yet in Game 6. The Warriors will need one more good game from Klay to seal another trip to the Finals. On the flipside, the Rockets must get even more from Gordon even after his decent 19-point Game 6 on 7-of-12 shooting with four 3-pointers. He needs to get up a lot more shots in support of Harden, who will be under a lot of pressure all game long.
Warriors projected starting lineup
PG – Stephen Curry | SG – Klay Thompson | SF – Kevin Durant | PF – Draymond Green | C – Kevon Looney
Rockets projected starting lineup
PG – James Harden | SG – Eric Gordon | SF – Trevor Ariza | PF – PJ Tucker | C – Clint Capela
Curry has been quietly putting up terrific fantasy stat lines in this series. He’s averaging 26 points, six boards, and four assists, which are obviously solid number. But he’s also getting steals – he has six in his last three games – and also had three blocks in Game 6. He’s going to have the ball in his hands a lot in Game 7 and should have ample opportunities to put up more big numbers.
As for the Rockets, it’s basically Harden and Gordon or bust from this point forward. Ariza is the big X-factor on the team, but apart from them, it’s tough to see anyone else on the Rockets team stealing the show fantasy-wise in Game 7.
The Warriors are clearly the better team now that Paul is compromised. However, they are not at home in a Game 7, which counts for something. It likely won’t be the blowout that was Game 6, but even then it’s hard to see the Warriors not capitalizing on their huge advantage without Paul being a factor. Take the Warriors to win and cover the six-point spread on the road.
The Warriors book their fourth-straight trip to the NBA Finals as they get the 98-91 win over the Rockets.
This game will be broadcast on TNT. Tip-off is at 9:00 pm Eastern.
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