Yet another third-quarter blitz saved the Warriors' season on Monday night, when Golden State won the West and eliminated the Houston Rockets. Then they got outscored by Golden State's Splash Brothers in the second half, when Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry combined for 37 points and the Rockets managed to put up only 25.
Paul missed 24 games during the regular season, during which Houston went 15-9, including 15-6 when both James Harden and Clint Capela played. The guard had to sit out Game 6 after suffering a bad a hamstring injury during the final minute of Game 5 against the Rockets.
Of course their 10-point lead at the half wasn't going to go unchallenged.
About Thompson: He was locked in, emotionally and physically, popping off screens, catching and shooting, creating space to get good looks and punching the air after big 3s. Paul is doubtful to play tonight, but the Rockets have not ruled out the possibility as he will be a game-time decision.
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Reputations and images and legacies also can and will be determined in this winner-take-all battle between the Warriors and Rockets. The Warriors are one of the best third quarter teams in the National Basketball Association and they came out from a 10-point halftime deficit and turned it into a 7-point advantage. One of Houston's few point guards, Paul sitting out with injury leading to an uptick in turnovers is probably not a coincidence.
The Rockets were behind by 13 after a 3 by Curry and had missed 27 straight 3-pointers when P.J. Tucker hit one from the corner to cut the lead to 89-79 midway through the quarter. Assuming that Paul is indeed unable to play, I'm going with the Warriors to pull away in the second half and come away with the win. In the video captured by NBA.com's official Twitter account, the three-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player was whooping it up with the team as they chanted their mantra. He asked, rhetorically, if the Rockets would take a Game 7 on their home court against the Warriors and, in a heartbeat, D'Antoni acknowledged the benefit of that scenario. Don't be shocked if he starts Game 7 for Golden State. The Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James will visit either the Golden State Warriors or the Houston Rockets in Game 1. He hasn't yet tested the hamstring, according to D'Antoni.
The Rockets will need to try and figure out a way to survive without Paul. The head coach says Paul's recovery is going well, but he's going to be listed as questionable for Monday's game.