By Lamar Battle
The Houston Rockets force a best two of three series (currently tied at 2-2) versus the vaunted Golden State Warriors in the NBA 2017-18 Western Conference Finals.
Can the Rockets seriously De-Rail the dynastic mega-team known as the Warriors ? Only time will tell but Tuesday nights victory 95 – 92 certainly enlivens the debate and after three prior lackluster efforts gives fans a series worthy of the combatants regular season records.
The Rockets weathered an early 12-0 Warriors run and a third quarter flurry punctuated by some incredible shooting by Steph Curry.
James Harden had 30 points and Chris Paul dispelling some opinions about him coming up short in big games had 27 points
Steph Curry and Kevin Durant had 28 and 27 points respectively for the Warriors who surprisingly came up short down the stretch. Writer Tony Powers suggested that the Warriors are like a late model top of the line Jaguar.
What Does that mean?
The Warriors bring an almost unbeatable combination of talent, smarts, unselfishness and toughness that when fully engaged transform them into some combination of the 71 Miami Dolphins and Cirque Du Solei. When moving and grooving in their zone they can be a sight to behold.
So How Did The Rockets Do It ?
A clue could be in Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni’s press conference. Coach Mike said ” I thought this is the highest level we’ve ever played defensively, without a doubt because we’re talking about the best offensive team ever.”
The further a franchise progresses into the playoffs the more they come to realize the importance of posturing and gamesmanship so it seems in one session Mike D’Antoni motivated his own team while firing a shot across the bow at the Warriors. This is the same guy who refused to acknowledge a style change (publicly) after a game one loss.
In game four the Rockets played a more physical brand of defense forcing the Warriors into a high number of turnovers.
In a series that seems destined to go seven games will the Warriors regain their high flying guns blazing style or will the Rockets prevail with a combination of isolation ball and hands on defense ?
Grab some popcorn because this will be quite a race to the finish.