Photo credit: nba.com/warriors
By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
HOUSTON — The Rockets took advantage of 18 turnovers by the Warriors, the final pivotal one coming off Draymond Green’s leg with under 10 seconds remaining and Eric Gordon knocked down two free throws to perserve a 98-94 victory in Game 5 of the West Finals at the Toyota Center Thursday night to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series.
“We were suppose to score and I lost the ball, ” Green said to reporters postgame.
More importantly, it puts the defending NBA Champions on the brink of elimination as the series shifts to Oakland for a “win-or-go-home” Game 6 Saturday night at Oracle Arena. Tip off is at 5:00 p.m. PT.
After defeating the Rockets by 41 points in Game 3, the Warriors have lost back-to-back games for the first time this postseason. The postseason is not the best time of year to start going on a losing streak. The Rockets snapped Golden State’s NBA postseason-record 16-game home winning streak in Game 4.
Eric Gordon led the Rockets with 24 points off the bench on 6-of-15 shooting. In fact, the Rockets bench outscored the Warriors’ reserves 33-4 in Game 5. Gordon connected on 9-of-10 from the free throw line.
Chris Paul finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists, but was just 6-of-19 shooting from the floor, including starting 0-of-7 in the first-half. Paul left the game in the final minutes after injuring his right hamstring after coming down on the foot of Warriors’ reserve guard Quinn Cook.
After the game, it was reported that Paul will be re-evaluated Friday and his status for Game 6 is unclear.
James Harden also struggled, shooting just 5-of-21 from the field (0-for-11 on 3s) and finishing with 19 points. Like Gordon, Harden did most of his damage from the free throw line, converting 9-of-9 free throws.
“We had to rely on our defense once again,” Harden said. “Game 4, we weren’t making shots but defensively we were really good. Same thing tonight.”
Center Clint Capela finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the postseason. Capela had three of Houston’s eight offensive rebounds.
As a team, Golden State had just three offensive rebounds.
Four Warriors finished in double-figures, led by Kevin Durant’s team-high 29 points. Klay Thompson added 23, Stephen Curry scored 22 and Green finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds.
Golden State played solid defense, limiting Houston to 37.2-percent shooting from the floor, but the aforementioned 18 turnovers led to 18 points by the Rockets. That can’t happen if you’re a championship team that prides itself on solid execution like Golden State has done during this four-year run under head coach Steve Kerr.
“I feel great about where we are right now,” Kerr said postgame. “I know that sounds crazy but I feel it. I know exactly what I’m seeing out there…we defended them well tonight. Just too many turnovers, too many reaches.
“If we settle down a little bit, we’ll be in really good shape.”
Durant shot 8-of-22 from the floor, including 3-of-6 from behind the three-point arc, and was 10-of-10 from the free throw line. For the series, Durant is perfect at the charity stripe, shooting 37-of-37 from the free throw line.
For the second straight game, the Warriors were without Andre Iguodala who has been dealing with a left knee contusion. Iguodala suffered the injury after bumping knees with Harden in Game 3. Many believe that since Iguodala has been out, it has thrown off the Warriors’ game since Iguodala is who Kerr affectionately calls, the “adult in the room” for his ability to keep the team calm during critical stages of the game.
“He’s dying to play, but he’s not healthy enough,” Kerr said. “We’ll just continue to take it day to day.”
The game itself was a tight one, with no lead greater than six points. At halftime. the game was tied, 45-45 and the two teams stayed within three points of each other throughout the third quarter.
Golden State suffered just their second Game 5 lost in a playoff series since 2015.
If the Warriors were to lose Game 6 on Saturday night, they would miss out the NBA Finals for the first time since 2014.
The Warriors’ backs are firmly pressed against the wall but the defending NBA wouldn’t have it any other way.