Posted on May 9, 2019, by Travis Pulver
The Houston Rockets should have won Game Five in Oakland Wednesday night. Yes, despite how poorly they played in the first half, they still should have won that game. Why? After staging a valiant comeback in the third quarter, the Rockets got the break they needed when Kevin Durant went down with a non-contact injury.
But the Rockets were unable to take advantage of his absence and still fell to the Warriors, 104-99.
“Tough loss. We had opportunities,” Houston’s Chris Paul said after the game, via ESPN. “Rebounding, we actually was right there in the rebounds. We’ve got to be better, offensively, defensively, especially myself, turnovers. We didn’t get stops when we needed to.”
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A game that was shaping up to be a competitive one in the opening minutes of the first quarter turned into a lopsided one in the final minutes of it as the Warriors went on a 17-3 to end the quarter. Down, 31-17, the Rockets battled back to within three, 40-37. But then the Warriors went on a 17-0 run to go ahead 20-points, 57-37 with 2:56 to play.
Houston, however, was able to stage a mini-comeback and cut the deficit to 14-point before halftime, 57-43.
Whatever Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said during the break must have worked. The team looked much better after the break and managed to whittle away at the lead until they got it down to a single point, 66-65, with 2:32 left to play in the third.
But then it happened.
Kevin Durant hit a 15-foot jumper to put the Warriors back up by three, but then he started to hobble around. Something was clearly wrong with his leg. Since it was a non-contact injury, there was some initial fear that it could be an Achilles tear.
The official word, for now, is that he has a calf strain, but he is supposed to have an MRI down on Thursday.
While that could have spelled doom for the Warriors, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry were able to pick up the slack and keep the Warriors in it. The game remained close throughout the fourth, but in the final minutes, Golden State managed to pull ahead by eight, 97-89. But Houston rallied to get within four, 101-97, with 40.6 seconds to play.
The Rockets got within three, 102-99, following a James Harden basket with 18.6 seconds to play, but couldn’t stop the Warriors on the other end. That shot was the only one Harden attempted over the final seven+ minutes of the game.
If Durant’s injury is anything more than a calf strain, the Warriors have yet to announce it. But they have already ruled him out of Game Six. He missed three games in a row last season with a right calf strain, and two in the playoffs in 2017 because of a left calf strain.
Durant’s absence has caused the Warriors to be 7.5-point underdogs when the series moves back to Houston for Game Six Friday night. The Warriors have not been such a large underdog in the playoffs under since Steve Kerr took over.