With 53 seconds remaining, Chris Paul crumpled to the floor, his right leg awkwardly held akimbo.
Down just one point, with time ticking down on the game, Quinn Cook capitalized on Paul’s inability to make it back on defense, but missed as Paul looked on while clutching his hamstring.
It was the story of game five of the Western Conference Finals, unfolding in an allegory for the entire series. The Houston Rockets give the Golden State Warriors very little room for error, and if the Warriors can’t take advantage of the sliver of hope, it’s disastrous. The falling of Paul widened this sliver of hope, into a wide open door — how both teams handle this change will be a defining feature of their respective seasons.
But no one is knocked out yet.
Facing playoff elimination for the first time since since acquiring Kevin Durant, Golden State is in a near-death battle for their playoff lives - and their identities.
The Warriors have some problems
Game results aside, there are some concerning developments emerging for the Golden State Warriors. For years I’ve been waging a one-man war against the idea that turnovers are Golden State’s Achilles heel - the team has demonstrated time and time again that they can win, even while turning the ball over a ton.
This was the first game this playoffs with more than 16 TOs. Last playoffs they had 17+ TOs in 7 games, and won them all. They are simply facing much better competition that’s taking advantage of TOs https://t.co/Sjq81hOJ7E— Grant Liffmann (@GrantLiffmann) May 25, 2018
So not turnovers (although they do hurt a bit).
But you know what is killing us? Lack of assists / ball movement.
Durant, who has been dominating the ball, is averaging just one assist per game in our losses. But beyond Durant, the Warriors need to rediscover their ball-flinging joy. The return of Iguodala (who seems to perennially lead the league in assist-to-turnover ratio) should help a bit because this is not the Warriors’ normal way of operating. As per Tom Haberstroh, the Warriors have upped their isolation plays from around seven per game, to a whopping 20 per game against the Rockets.
But this is a fine line the Warriors are walking — listen to Steve Kerr talk to Durant during the game about toeing the line between ball movement and isolation attacks. The Warriors seem more than content to go ISO toe-to-toe against the Rockets, but Kerr wants to use it as a final resort, not a first option.
Durant was 0-for-4 in yet another disappointing fourth quarter and — as all Warriors fans who’ve endured years of “blew a 3-1 lead” jokes know — legacy can be more easily defined by our defeats, rather than our victories. Steph Curry and Quinn Cook both missed wide open shots with the game on the line, Draymond Green bobbled a pass away at the most critical juncture in the game. If they can’t figure this out in Game 6, a lot of opinions are going to be formed based on how badly the Warriors played in each of these last two fourth quarters.
---- Latest #RapidReplay ---- #NFL - #NBA- #MLB - #NHL - #FIFA - #NCAA - #FLHSFB - - Football High School Sports highlights - Here's what happenning right this very moments mattclapp: Steve Kerr talks to Kevin Durant about trusting his teammates, referen… pic.twitter.com/KxpbJHft7e— Audible Sports (@AudibleSports) May 25, 2018
The Rockets have some problems of their own
While Houston came away with the win, things are just as shaky in Texas as they are for Golden State. James Harden, who went 0-for-11 from three and 5-for-21 from the field looks to be wearing down - his efficiency is steadily decreasing as the series progresses.
This game was saved by the Rockets’ bench. Eric Gordon, who poured in 25 efficient points was phenomenal, Gerald Green chipped in with nine points, going a crazy 3-for-5 from deep on some tough, tough makes.
Overall, the Warriors defense is winning the efficiency war, holding this Rockets team to just 43% shooting in the series.
But the real problem for the Rockets is Chris Paul’s hamstring. If he can’t go (and it looks like he cannot) everything changes. Both teams are playing with short rotations, but the Rockets are all-in, playing just the two players mentioned above off the bench in Game 5. Without Paul, it’s not clear how much burden Harden will have to carry — but it’s a lot.
In a series as close as this one, one critical injury could be all it takes to tip the balance.
Who was the Warrior Wonder for Game 5?
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