Takeaways from Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals
Well, well, well! It looks like we got what we wished for as it all comes down to a deciding Game 7 between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets. This year’s Western Conference Finals are shaping up for a classic finish after Golden State’s 115-86 beat down of the Rockets in Game 6.
The Tale of Two Halves
Houston got off to an extremely hot start scoring 39 first quarter points, including 8 for 12 on 3-point shooting in the quarter alone. Even without Chris Paul on the floor, the Rockets offense looked like they hadn’t missed a beat. The role players were able to get more opportunities and James Harden stepped up big time with Houston taking an early 17-point lead. Based on the way things looked early on, the nervous bay area fans at Oracle Arena may thought their team could be booking those flights to Cancun earlier than expected.
But then…there was the second half. Golden State came out the gates looking like a completely different team and almost instantly erased a 10-point halftime deficit with an 11-0 run to start the third quarter. The Warriors’ defensive intensity increased dramatically and they were shooting lights out. The Warriors averaged a league best, 30.2 points per game in the third quarter this season so of course we expected a run. However, this game simply got out of hand as the Warriors outscored the Rockets 33-16 in the 3rd and 64-25 for the entire second half to keep their season alive. We’ll see if they can keep the momentum going for Game 7 in front of a Houston crowd rooting for their first NBA Finals appearance since 1995.
What’s Wrong with Kevin Durant?
KD simply is not making his shots the way we are used to seeing, and his 4th quarter presence had been almost absent. In games 3 and 4, Durant shot a combined 17 for 46 (36.9%) from the field in the two straight losses for the Warriors. KD managed to score 23 points in the Game 6 victory but he did so on 6 for 17 (35.3%) shooting. He even missed four free throws in Game 6 after a streak of 40 consecutive makes during these Conference Finals. As someone regarded by many as the second-best player in the game after LeBron James, Durant will need to get back to his normal self in a hurry for Golden State to pull off a Game 7 victory in H-Town. Fortunately for the Warriors, Klay Thompson had his highest scoring output of this year’s playoffs with a game-high 35 points in Game 6 which included hitting 9 of his 14 3-point attempts. Klay always seems to give stellar performances at the right time. If you recall, he also saved the Warriors’ season back in Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals when he drained a playoff record 11 3-pointers against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. When asked about his clutch performances, Klay responded with “I guess you could say I was born for it.”
James Harden Got His 3-Point Shot Back
This is definitely a bright spot for the Rockets going into Game 7. Harden had been in a bit of a 3-point shooting funk coming into Game 6 having made only 8 for 44 attempts from behind the arc since Game 2. In Game 5, Harden went 0 for 11 from 3-point range, tying a playoff record set by New York Knicks guard John Starks in the 1994 NBA Finals against the Rockets. Harden managed to get his groove back in Game 6 though as he was hot early on and made a total of four 3-pointers for the game. Eric Gordon and Gerald Green also helped out Harden with their 3-point shooting but Harden can’t afford another shooting slump going into Game 7, especially if Chris Paul is unable to suit up.
Keys for Game 7
There’s no doubt that both teams will lay it all out for Game 7 with their seasons on the line. Many people believe the Western Conference Finals are basically this year’s NBA Finals since it is assumed either of these teams will defeat their Eastern Conference foe regardless if it’s Boston or Cleveland. Houston needs to review film and look at everything that went well during the first half of Game 6 and continue doing so for a full 48 minutes in Game 7. Coach D’Antoni may also want to consider going deeper into his bench earlier in the game, particularly if Chris Paul is out. The Rockets did not look like the same team in the second half and fatigue may have played a part in that. Having fresh legs on the court may also help lessen the impact of Golden State’s expected 3rd quarter runs.
Golden State on the other hand needs to run their offense and play Warriors basketball. This is what led to their onslaught in the second half of Game 6. Many times throughout this series, it appears as if the Warriors either go into a 3-point shooting contest with the Rockets or just give the ball to KD for an isolation while the other players stand around. This is playing right into what the Rockets like to do on a regular basis. Golden State typically does a great job when moving the ball to get guys open shots and also running their offense through Steph Curry. This will be a major key as we saw how well it worked last game. They also need to limit turnovers if they want to make their 4th straight finals as they have had an un-traditionally high amount during these conference finals. Another key is to keep Houston off the offensive glass as guys like Clint Cappella thrive on second chance buckets.
Regardless of who wins Game 7, we are in for something epic!