The Houston Rockets came into Friday night with everything set up for them to run away with a win and force a Game 7 rematch against the Golden State Warriors. Instead, Golden State showed why it’s the best in the business and why it’s so difficult to stop the heavyweight champion.
Houston ran into plenty of opportunities in this game with the Warriors giving them one free shot after another. The Rockets landed the small blows, but its inability to land the kill shot proved fatal.
The back-to-back champions keep on doing their thing. Even with injuries and poor play, Golden State stays alive until Stephen Curry is ready for the kill shot. We see it every year and we saw it once again in an incredible Game 6 second-half performance.
Here are the six biggest takeaways from Golden State’s thrilling Game 6 victory and another series knockout of the Rockets.
Klay Thompson steps up into superstar role
Golden State already found itself at a disadvantage without Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins, then Curry’s foul trouble made things even more difficult. One would think that is enough to tank this team in a playoff game on the road.
Instead, in a stretch when the Rockets could have gone on a big run, Thompson’s two-way ability jumped off the screen and took over the game. Curry might not have contributed in the first half, but his fellow splash brother had his back.
Thompson’s 21 first-half points bought Golden State time and prevented Houston from ever grabbing early momentum. He remained hot in the second half and once he and Curry both locked on, Houston had more than a problem.
Houston’s failure to execute proves fatal
The Rockets came into this game with every advantage and a chance to cruise to a fairly easy win, but they turned it into a dogfight until the final whistle.
While sloppy passing hurt this team and resulted in 11 turnovers in the first half, Houston simply didn’t execute in general. The Rockets got Curry off the court and forced Golden State to rack up bad fouls, but they failed to take advantage of the very situation they created.
Championship-caliber teams take advantage of advantageous situations, Houston failed to do that in Game 5 and Game 6. The Rockets let the Warriors hang around all night and once Curry finally got hot, it once agains served as the nail in Houston’s coffin.
Stephen Curry comes up hot when it matters
Everyone expected Curry to put the Warriors on his back and set the building on fire with Durant sidelined. For much of the night, it appeared Curry was not going to deliver under the added pressure.
It would be an understatement to call Curry’s first-half performance brutal. He failed to score a single point and played in only 12 minutes thanks to careless fouls from bad decisions. Fortunately, his teammates stepped up early and kept the game tight until he was ready.
Curry came alive in the second half with 33 points thanks to his unlimited range from deep and the ice in his veins for the biggest moments. On a night without Durant and when Curry struggled until the final minutes, Golden State took the series and that says everything about how deadly this team is.
Golden State’s bench comes alive
The Warriors have not been getting much from their bench throughout this series, something they desperately needed to change in Game 6. Fortunately for them, the bench came through in a big way.
Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and Shaun Livingston all stepped up in larger roles than expected and each of them delivered. Looney proved to be an effective rebounder, especially creating second-chance opportunities, and came up huge as a scorer. Bell did a nice job drawing fouls and helped eat up minute when guys needed rest.
The biggest storyline from this game will be Curry’s fourth quarter explosion, but that would have been far too late if not for the likes of Looney, Bell and Livingston surpassing even the grandest expectations.
Clint Capela doesn’t live up to the contract
The Rockets signed Capela to a $90 million contract for a lot of reasons, but failing to show up for an entire series against the Warriors wasn’t one of them.
Capela didn’t just become a non-factor this series, he was a liability. He got beat defensively, meanwhile, Draymond Green and Kevin Looney crushed him on the boards and he didn’t help this team offensively. He fell short in every way imaginable.
The Rockets were already tight on cap space and Capela’s contract makes things even tighter. There is simply no excuses for his atrocious play in this series and he could quickly become a target of criticism for fans given his new massive contract.
Chris Paul’s heroic efforts come up short
CP3 wanted another crack at this team and he got it. After struggling through the first five games, he took the court with a chance to make a difference in Game 6 and potentially push this series to seven.
While Houston fell short throughout the night, CP3 did not. He shot well from the floor with 27 points on 19 shots, finished with a team-high 11 rebounds and six assists. CP3 deserves a lot of heat for his poor play in this series, but he isn’t responsible for the season-ending loss on Friday.
Unfortunately, he is getting older and with his durability deteriorating the window to win a title might be on the verge of closing.