NBA Playoffs 2018: The Warriors have become the Rockets, but not so good; Chris Paul would be a painful loss for the series

The Houston Rockets are to a win in the NBA Finals after surviving the Warriors 98-94 in a totally wild Game 5 of the Western Conference finals on Thursday. Houston now leads the series 3-2 to Oakland for Game 6 on Saturday.

There's a lot to be said about this game and this series, so let's do it. Here are five things you should know about Game 5:

1. Will the injury put the red hot Chris Paul on ice?

First things first: if you were one of the trumpeters in the narrative of "Chris Paul is not a big winner", which is perhaps the weakest and weakest version of the NBA history, just introduce yourself. This man, man. After a brilliant Game 4, Paul was again the best player on the field for crucial stages in Game 5, even if his statistical line does not jump off the page: 20 points on 6 of 19 shots, seven rebounds, six help on a game that was won with the pure guts, Paul was the soul of this team of the Rockets when James Harden could not find even a detail of his heart or game, which we will see in a second.

When Paul was moved to Houston, a league executive told me, and I'm paraphrasing here, that it was going to be a great marriage because Paul would bring things to Houston that were missing, and the style and style of Houston. The cast of Support would give Paul some things that were missing. How it has turned out to be true. Here you have a team that prohibits midrange shots and one of the best mid-range players in history is in the middle, and the result is a team that can now get cubes in different ways than paper.

So many times in this series, Paul has had a race, or had one, or just calmed the flow of the game with a patented pull-up in the lane or from 16 feet, the exact shots that Houston supposedly despises. Give credit to the Rockets for breaking this principle, because it is saving them in this series while they fight from three.

On the other hand, Paul has adapted to the Houston game in all the right ways, taking almost two more triples per game this year than last year, and more than 100 more than the pull-up variety. The four three he dropped in Game 5 seemed to be worth four, they were so big, including this answered prayer that led to his ridicule by Stephen Curry as a boss :

Somehow, Paul was a minus-13 for this game

If you need a reason to dismiss the badysis, there you have it.

Unfortunately, we can only celebrate Paul, because he could be out for Game 6 or even the rest of this series, or maybe the rest of the playoffs altogether. Hopefully that is not the case, but he came out late in Game 5 with a hamstring injury (reported by Kristen Ledlow of TNT), and it was one of those jerks that you could see from the defeated side that could be bad. Again, hopefully not. This series deserves Paul. Paul deserves this series and it does not matter how long these playoffs last. He has played his entire career for this. If he can not play in Game 6, it's hard to imagine how the Rockets can beat the Warriors on the road. Paul will be re-evaluated on Friday morning. Stay tuned …

2. The old warriors do not enter through that door

Listen, there's only one way to say this: the Warriors are no longer the same team (well, except for the turnovers, in that aspect they're still the same team). They are still great, but the combination of Houston getting better and the Warriors becoming a worse version of themselves is the reason why this series is where it is. For the most part, the beautiful ball movement that we expected from the Warriors has gone, which now look a lot like, well, the Rockets, playing isolation through Kevin Durant, basically, these full playoffs, which I, and a lot of other people, suspected that they could eventually bite them as the competition heated .

Once again, the Rockets won the 3-point battle in Game 5, turning 13 into the 10 of the Warriors, while they were trying 17 more than Golden State. Simply, the Warriors are no longer a three-point shooting team. They still have 3-point capacity, but they do not hunt them. They have decided that they will play with Durant. A team that used to throw the math game to everyone else is now susceptible to the same advantage that it apparently created. Its flow is not the same. Nothing is the same. Now, the Warriors are very talented, and Durant is so good, he can clearly still win this way. They finished 16-1 in the playoffs last year for shouting out loud.

But again, they had more room for error last year. The Rockets have closed the gap. Golden State is simply not the same. The Warriors had 18 badists in Game 5 when they are a team that used to put 30 badists as a clock. How many of those 18 badists did Durant have? Zero. What about Draymond Green, who used to be the Warriors' main dealer, since everyone else worked off the ball? The four. Again, they are not the same Warriors.

That said, it's not all Golden State simply deciding to play differently. Houston is forcing part of, if not a lot, this offensive position. Which brings us to …

3. This defense of the Rockets is not a joke

Houston has now won two consecutive games in this series, against perhaps the most talented offense in history, with its defense. Congratulations to Houston general manager Daryl Morey, who has happily admitted that the Rockets are obsessed with defeating the Warriors, and that he has built his team accordingly. Jamal Crawford said it best:

Kevin is ultra aggressive tonight. You almost have to see how Houston plays defensively. They are changing from 1-5 no matter what … GS thrives with his Ball movement, moving, cutting, etc. With Houston out of that, Kevin is the only advantage they have at all times.

– Jamal Crawford (@JCrossover) May 25, 2018

Former Pistons player, Rip Hamilton, told me exactly the same thing a couple of days ago when he and I discussed why Durant I played both iso ball. I said it was the Warriors' choice to play that way, which I still firmly believe in. Rip said that the Warriors shooters can not get space because Houston is changing every screen that is closing the movement of the ball, and there is also some truth in that.

This is exactly how Morey planned it with men like PJ Tucker, Trevor Ariza, a versatile player in Clint Capela, who is able to protect perimeter players, Chris Paul who will fight with two weight clbades and will be fine, and even guys like Eric Gordon and Gerald Green, who are not big advocates, but are at least the right size to keep the change.

But … the Warriors are still surrendering to this too easily. Curry has shown in the last three games that he is more than capable of getting his offense against any Houston defender, and when Golden Sate has moved the ball, he has given them buckets. More than anything, it's the Rockets who impose their will. They want to play a certain way, and they're forcing the Warriors to play that way instead of Golden State dictating their own terms, which is what we used to expect from a team that wrote its own rules for three years.

Either way, the results speak for themselves: two games in a row that the Warriors have less than 100 points. In Game 4, Houston kept the Warriors at 12 points in the fourth quarter with 2 of 13 shots from Durant and Curry. In Game 5, Durant went blank in the fourth quarter. We went 0-for-4 from the field. I did not receive a vaccine in the last 3:30. That's 1 out of 9 in the last two fourth quarters for Durant. Give credit to the Rockets. You know he wanted to score. You know the Warriors wanted me to score. He could not do it.

4. What were the Warriors doing in the stretch?

Understand well: a team with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson rested the result of three of their last four possessions, in a possession game, on the shoulders of Draymond Green and Quinn Cook. Granted, Cook's appearance from three was good, and Green added a triple to cut the lead to one with just over a minute of play. That was a monster shot. But still, if you're supposed to knock down your big weapons, this was exactly the opposite of that.

The final possession was the last scratch.

Then Golden State has the ball with 6.7 seconds to play, two down, and they're going to … Draymond? I mean, take a look at this work. Curry receives the entry pbad and immediately tries to overtake Green, who chooses the worst moment imaginable to go to butterfingers.

It does not matter that even if Green had caught the ball, Durant was being watched on his face on the opposite side about 40 feet and was not even trying to move, and Curry was the one who made the pbad and was basically out of the game. the game. Green was going to have to make a play out of the dribble against a tight defense with the clock down. Is that what you call with three of the best shooters in history in your group?

I've always promoted Steve Kerr as an incredible coach, and he is. But there are some things about the way you are training this particular team that deserve at least some questions.

5. Harden needs to recover in a big way

Harden was horrible in Game 5. Like, abysmal. Dude was 0-for-11 for three, and 5-for-21 overall. In the end, I was not even really trying to shoot, I just prayed that the calls would reach the edge. He got some of them, but in general Paul and the boys rescued him big time in the most important game of his career in the Rockets. He deserves a pbad. It has not been excellent for most of this series, and by its standards it has been quite inconsistent during the playoffs, but the playoffs are different. This is not easy Again, Durant was excluded in time of money, and is probably the second best player in the world. Happens.

But it can not happen in Game 6 if Paul is out. We will continue hoping that he can play, but if not, the only possibility the Rockets have in Oracle is that Harden makes his MVP. If he can do that, and send the Rockets to the NBA Finals, nothing else will matter.

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