Sunday has potential to be more than awesome with three Game 7s, beginning with the Rockets and Warriors at 3:30. Just one thing: the Rockets have to win Game 6 on Friday night first.
It seems strange that most of the basketball community would simply assume the two-time defending champions and winners of three out of the last four NBA Championships will topple over with a chance to close out their opponent, but it is.
Of course, there are circumstances. Kevin Durant strained his calf late in the third quarter in Wednesday’s Game 5 win and will miss this game and a potential Game 7. He was, without doubt, Golden State’s best player in the postseason and matching James Harden point-for-point up until the moment he went down.
Now, Stephen Curry will have to get the Splash Brothers back together and get a little help from their buddy Draymond Green in at least one of the next two games to even give Durant a chance to return to the floor this season and win a third consecutive championship. Under Steve Kerr, Golden State has never caught even close to as many as the 7.5 points it’s catching on Friday.
Durant had been so good and Curry really has not. He was struggling on Wednesday until Durant went down and he had to will his team to a win, which he did.
Curry’s funk has been a mystery but some of it may have, ironically, had to do with Durant’s stellar play. Curry has been the man, the face of the franchise, and everybody in the Bay’s favorite player throughout the Warriors’ dynasty. Suddenly, he wasn’t even the go-to guy. Perhaps it had him questioning his confidence.
There won’t be any time to question anything on Friday. Curry will have to make plays; Klay Thompson will have to make shots; and Draymond Green will have to take every open look he gets (and make a fair number of them). Golden State’s bench was thin before the injury to Durant. Kerr was basically playing seven guys with the five in the death lineup and a little Kevon Looney and Shaun Livingston sprinkled in. It’s possible the loss of Durant will be too much and Golden State will simply roll over and put all its eggs in the Game 7 basket. Houston did win two games at home against a healthy Durant.
That’s what the public is counting on, at least. Houston opened -5.5 after the first five games were all decided by six points or fewer. Now, the Rockets are -7.5. I was ready to bet Houston until I saw the line movement.
Instead, I’m going to give Golden State a chance. The Warriors are the champs and, suddenly, the public is doubting them. Curry, Thompson, and Green are going to be motivated to prove to the world they are still good enough to win a championship as a trio and Game 6, on the road, represents a chance to let it all hang out and just play with a little house money before Game 7.
It could go awry at almost any point, if the bench can’t get contributions out of someone who hasn’t played a big role in the series to this point because nobody can play the Rockets at the Toyota Center with six guys. But 7.5 points are a lot and the Warriors have a unique opportunity that could, just maybe, bring out the best in the guys who remain healthy.
Play: Golden State +7.5