Rockets take series lead after bonkers final 60 seconds to push the Warriors to the brink

  • The Houston Rockets beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 on Thursday night, securing a 3-2 series lead and pushing the Warriors to the brink of elimination.
  • The final 60 seconds of the game were a calamity, with Chris Paul getting injured and the Warriors flubbing several good chances to steal the win.
  • The Rockets will have a chance to knock off the Warriors for good, but Paul’s health remains a huge question mark heading into Game 6 on Saturday.

The Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors were the NBA’s two best offenses this season, but the Western Conference finals have been defined by their defence and inability to score in big moments.

The Rockets, as of Thursday night, are winning the battle. Houston pulled out a 98-94 win over Golden State in Game 5 that gives it a 3-2 series lead, pushing a team many thought was unbeatable to the brink of elimination.

The final 60 seconds, much like Game 4, were not about crisp execution but both teams trying to simply get by, hoping they would have the lead when the final buzzer sounded. There were no highlight plays but rather a series of mishaps that shaped the result of the game.

After Draymond Green hit a 3-pointer that took the Warriors within one point with 1:15 to play, Paul isolated on the other end. While driving on Warriors guard Quinn Cook, Paul landed awkwardly and didn’t get up.

The Warriors came down on the other end with a five-on-four advantage and swung the ball to the open Cook, a G League call-up this year who played so well down the stretch of the regular season that the Warriors signed him for the playoffs. Cook missed the open look. Meanwhile, Paul limped to his feet, holding his hamstring, clearly injured.

Both the Rockets and the Warriors missed on their next possessions, keeping the game locked at 95-94.

After Stephen Curry’s floater bounced off the rim, the Warriors were forced to foul Trevor Ariza. He made just one of two free throws, however, keeping the Warriors within striking distance.

But it was the rebound of the missed free throw that may have done in the Warriors. As the two teams jockeyed for the ball, Green corralled it on the baseline and instinctually threw it ahead to Kevin Durant, who called timeout. Because Green technically advanced the ball with the pass, when the Warriors called timeout they could not advance the ball to half-court to inbound the ball. Instead, they would have to inbound from the backcourt.

And that’s where it unravelled for the Warriors. As Curry got the ball on the inbounds, he tried to advance it up ahead to Green, who had a numbers advantage. Green, however, bobbled Curry’s pass, resulting in a turnover with three seconds left. Eric Gordon was fouled, hit both free throws, and sealed the game.

The question lingering over all of this is Paul’s health. Paul has delivered for the Rockets in this series, hitting several big shots in the past two games. If he’s out, the Rockets will have to rely on James Harden, who has struggled to find his shot in this series.

Questions also remain about the Warriors’ mental state. A team so composed and so capable of dominating has not looked so frazzled over the past two seasons. But against the Rockets, the Warriors have fallen into playing Houston’s isolation-heavy, slow-paced style, and their offence has been nullified by Houston’s ability to switch. And despite that, the Warriors still had their chances to win the game, only to bobble them.

Game 6 will take place Saturday night in Oakland, California.

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