While the Golden State Warriors are now one win away from their fifth straight trip to the Western Conference finals, they also suffered a massive blow.
Kevin Durant injured his calf and left for good in Wednesday’s Game 5 win. The Warriors’ superstar has already been ruled out for Game 6, and he could be sidelined a lot longer, depending on the MRI results. Golden State managed to hold off Houston and take a 104-99 win and a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 slated for Friday night at the Toyota Center.
The Warriors were led by Klay Thompson‘s 27 points, while Steph Curry added 25 in bounce-back performances for both members of the Warriors’ vaunted backcourt. But even with the win, all of the focus in Oakland will be on Durant’s injury status. James Harden finished with 31 points for the Rockets, while four others scored in double figures. But as has been the case in every game so far in Golden State this series, Houston just couldn’t do enough.
The series shifts back to Houston for Game 6, which is a must-win for the Rockets.
Here’s everything you need to know about this second-round series.
No. 1 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 4 Houston Rockets
How to watch Game 6
- Date: Friday, May 10
- Time: 9 p.m. ET
- Location: Toyota Center — Houston, Texas
- TV channel: ESPN
- Live stats: GameTracker
- Online streaming: Watch ESPN
- Odds: Rockets -7 (Over/Under 211.5)
Playoff series schedule (Warriors lead 3-2)
*All times Eastern
- Game 1: Warriors 104, Rockets 100 (Box Score)
- Game 2: Warriors 115, Rockets 109 (Box Score)
- Game 3: Rockets 126, Warriors 121 OT (Box Score)
- Game 4: Rockets 112, Warriors 108 (Box Score)
- Game 5: Warriors 104, Rockets 99 (Box Score)
- Game 6 (at HOU): Fri., May 10, TBD — TV: ESPN
- Game 7* (at GS): Sun., May 12, TBD — TV: TBD
Odds and Analysis
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Warriors: Golden State looked to have flipped the switch toward the end of the regular season, but they had two poor efforts in their opening-round series against a tough Clippers team, and lost DeMarcus Cousins for the postseason in the process. Now the Warriors face a hungry Rockets team that’s been waiting for revenge since last year. If the Warriors can keep their focus every game and avoid letdowns, they still have a slight advantage on paper. But they won’t be able to get away with any mental lapses against Houston the way they did against the Clippers.
Rockets: After a disappointing start to the regular season, Houston has hit its stride at the perfect time. Behind Harden’s phenomenal individual season, the Rockets were one of the best teams in basketball in the second half and carried the momentum into the playoffs. Their analytics-driven, 3-point and isolation-heavy system might not be the most aesthetically pleasing to some, but it’s clicking on all cylinders heading into the series. They’ll just hope to avoid prolonged cold stretches, like the infamous one that sunk them in last year’s Game 7 against Golden State.
Matchups to watch
1. James Harden vs. all the Warriors: You can put whomever you want on Harden, but the Rockets will seek out whichever matchup they want to exploit. The Warriors may resist switching all picks given Harden’s unique ability to exploit mismatches, but eventually, he’ll find a matchup that he likes and go to work. Making Harden’s life as difficult as possible will be priority No. 1 for the Warriors this series.
2. Stephen Curry vs. Chris Paul: They may not guard each other all the time, but the winner of the Curry-Paul matchup could very well dictate the winner of the series. As we’ve seen for years, the Warriors tend to go as Curry goes. When he’s rolling, Golden State is nearly impossible to stop, so the Rockets will craft schemes and make adjustments to get the ball out of his hands. On the other side, Paul has ripped the Warriors in pick-and-roll in the past, an area where Golden State struggled against the Clippers’ Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. If Paul has a strong series, it means the Rockets’ offense is humming.
3. Kevin Durant vs. PJ Tucker: If the Rockets game plan to stop the Warriors shooters, that will leave much of the scoring burden on Durant’s shoulders — as we saw in last year’s series. He’ll face isolation situations, which is no easy task with Tucker guarding him. Tucker gives up quite a few inches, but is one of the toughest, most physical defenders in the league. The Rockets will be fine giving up points to Durant, as long as they come in an inefficient manner. It will be up to Durant to find a blend of shot selection and facilitating to keep the Warriors in rhythm.
Series prediction, pick
Warriors in seven: This is going to be a bloodbath, and possibly the best series we see all postseason. The Rockets really do have what it takes to beat the Warriors, but when both play their best the Warriors are still the better team. Assuming the Warriors play with focus and intensity the whole time, they get the slight edge — but it certainly won’t be easy. Ultimately this will come down to Golden State getting Game 7 at home, and they’ll ride that to the conference finals.