Western Conference Finals – Game 7
Golden State at Houston (TNT, 9:00 p.m. ET)
Not even a 17-point hole in an elimination game fazes the defending champion Warriors. Golden State had its backs against the wall at home against Houston in Game 6, but put together an incredible second half run to even up the Western Conference Finals at 3-3 with a trip back to Houston for a shot at a fourth consecutive NBA Finals trip.
The Rockets stepped up to the challenge in Game 6 early on with point guard Chris Paul sidelined due to a hamstring strain. Houston built a 39-22 advantage after one quarter, but no deficit is too insurmountable for Golden State, who eventually trimmed the Rockets’ lead to 10 points at halftime. The Warriors did their usual thing after halftime by outscoring the Rockets in the third quarter, 33-16, followed by a 31-9 whitewashing of Houston in the fourth quarter.
In the end, Golden State crushed Houston, 115-86 to easily cash as 12 ½-point favorites, led by a 64-point effort from the “Splash Brothers” combination of Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry. Thompson drilled nine three-pointers, while Curry posted a 29-point performance to give the Warriors their first cover in four chances this postseason in the role of a double-digit favorite.
James Harden carried the load for Houston by scoring 32 points and hitting four three-pointers after failing to knock down a trey in Game 5. Eric Gordon started hot for Houston, but couldn’t carry it into the second half as he finished with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor. The Rockets scratched together only 25 points in the second half, while suffering their third double-digit loss to the Warriors in this series.
The Warriors return to the Toyota Center dropping two consecutive visits after capturing the series opener, 119-106. Houston’s two home wins came off losses, which will be the case in Game 7 once again. The Rockets are riding an 11-game winning streak following a loss dating back to January 8, including a 4-0 record in the playoffs. In those four victories in the postseason, Houston has won by margins of 19, 21, 22, and 3, as the 22-point win in Game 2 against Golden State was the only one in this span that came at home.
Now the question is whether or not Paul will suit up and play in Game 7 for the Rockets. Paul is listed as a game-time decision for the series finale and his presence is paramount for Houston to have a chance at advancing to its first NBA Finals since 1995.
Since the 2014-15 regular season, Houston has only been listed as a home underdog 15 times and they’ve gone 8-7 in those games. In the seven losses, six of them came by double digits. Seven of the matchups came against Golden State.
Including this series, Houston and Golden State have seen the ‘under’ go 13-5 in their last 18 meetings and Monday’s total will be the lowest number posted since a 2015 regular season matchup when the total was 211. For what it’s worth, the Rockets are 12-3 to the ‘under’ in their last 15 games when listed as a home underdog.
The last home team to be listed as an underdog in a Game 7 is the Rockets, who knocked off the Clippers in the 2015 Western Conference semifinals, 113-110 as 2 ½-point ‘dogs. However, Houston was riding solid momentum heading into that decisive contest as the Rockets trailed, 3-1 before winning three consecutive games to advance to the conference finals (where they eventually lost to the Warriors).
Golden State has not been pushed to the limit in a Game 7 since the 2016 playoffs. Steve Kerr’s squad erased a 3-1 series deficit to shock the Thunder in the conference finals, but squandered a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals against the Cavaliers, as both Game 7’s were played at Oracle Arena. The last time the Warriors played a Game 7 away from the Bay Area came in the 2014 first round against the Clippers as Golden State lost, 126-121.