Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics a Win Away from the NBA Finals
The NBA Finals are one game closer to happening, but the teams with an immediate chance to advance are not who many would have predicted just a few weeks ago. Here’s a recap of Game 5 of each Conference Finals series:
Boston 96 – Cleveland 83
LeBron James’ quest for an 8th consecutive Finals appearance may be nearing its end, as the Celtics forced the Cavaliers to the brink of elimination.
Boston jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter, and never trailed again. Though James had 16 points at the half, he was held to just 2 in the fourth quarter. He also had 6 of Cleveland’s 15 turnovers.
James admitted to feeling fatigued after the game. “I had my moments, but I think everybody at this point is tired, worn down whatever the case may be,” said Lebron.
As has often been the case during these playoffs, James received little help from his supporting cast. Kevin Love (14 points) was the only other Cav to finish in double figures, while it took until midway through the third quarter for a Cavaliers starter other than James or Love to make a basket.
Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 24 points, his ninth 20-point game of the playoffs. He is one game away from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s (then Lew Alcindor) rookie record of ten 20-point games in a postseason.
“I just enjoy playing in the big moments, in the big games,” said Tatum. “That’s when I have the most fun.”
“I can’t say it enough,” Tatum continued. “We’re one win away from being in the finals. The playoffs bring the best out of people.”
The playoffs will have to bring something resembling the best out of Lebron’s teammates. Otherwise, a tiring King James might be at the end of his reign.
Game 6 is Friday.
Houston 98 – Golden State 94
Similar to Game 4, the Rockets pulled out a win in a defensive struggle between two usually high-scoring teams.
Eric Gordon came off the bench to score a team-high 24 points, and his steal on Golden State’s final possession sealed the win in a back-and-forth game.
Gordon’s performance helped compensate for the offensive struggles of Rockets superstar James Harden, who finished 0-11 on three-pointers, and 5-21 overall.
Harden’s errant shooting was part of a larger problem for Houston, who shot 37% as a team. However, their defence allowed them to pull out the victory anyway.
“We had to rely on our defence once again,” Harden said. “Game 4 we weren’t making shots but defensively we were really good. Same thing tonight.”
Kevin Durant led the Warriors with 29 points.
Houston point guard Chris Paul was his usual excellent self, scoring 20 points, along with 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals. However, he left the game in the final minute, felled by a right hamstring strain.
The Rockets received some bad news Friday, as it was announced that the injury will keep Paul out of Game 6.
“I hate it for him above all,” said Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni of Paul’s absence. “He’s practically won us these last two games.”
Houston now has a chance to return to their first NBA Finals since 1995, while ending Golden State’s 3-year streak of appearances. However, they will have to do so without the services of their star point guard.