Steve Kerr knows the Houston Rockets are a much lesser opponent when Chris Paul can not be on the floor, but the Golden State Warriors coach would rather see the star point guard suit up in the Western Conference Finals.
Andre Iguodala has not played since game 3 of this series after exiting that game after colliding knees with James Harden.
Paul played a major role in the Rockets' last two victories, averaging 23.5 points in those two wins, but strained his hamstring in the final minute of Game 5.
Those inside the Oracle Arena must've feared the worst as the defending champions trailed by as much as 17 in the first half and went into the half-time break with a 10-point deficit. On Monday during game seven, the Astros will be at Yankee Stadium. Harden finished with 32 points, six rebounds and six assists but was only 12-of-29 from the floor and 2-of-13 on 3s. The Warriors are plus-68 in third quarters during this season, including plus-35 in the past two games, when the Rockets really could have used Chris Paul's calming presence.
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But the Warriors tightened up on defense, contested shots, and their own shots began to fall, with two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson knocking down threes with machine-like precision. It will be a summer of what-could-have-been for the Rockets, who couldn't finish off the Warriors without Paul after putting them on the ropes.
The world is still awaiting official word on Chris Paul's status for Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, but the scoop may have come from an unlikely source. After performing a spin move against Warriors guard Quinn Cook, Paul fell on the ground and favored his right hamstring with 51.7 seconds left. The team is in Houston for Game 7.
Now, the Warriors find themselves in the position that malaise has left them: facing a Game 7 here at Toyota Center against the Houston Rockets, who led the National Basketball Association with 65 victories this season. Why did the Warriors' offence suffer costly breakdowns in Games 4 and 5?
Of course, without a Game 7 win, this is all relatively meaningless.
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If the Rockets manage to pull off the upset in front of their home-court crowd, there is hope for a competitive finals series after all, with Paul still rehabbing.
"Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Paul is one of the best players in the league, but he added, "[Injuries] are part of the playoffs.
By winning Game 6, the Warriors will force Paul into making the toughest decision of his career. With a trip to the Finals on the line, that's not good enough.
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