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The Chris Paul factor: Why Rockets got pummeled in Game 6

There are two numbers that stand out like pillars of fire on a mountaintop when looking at what went wrong for the Houston Rockets Saturday night against the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals.

Twenty-one and nine.

There were 21 turnovers committed by Houston. Nine of those turnovers were committed by James Harden.

These numbers reflect just why Chris Paul is the glue that holds the Rockets together. In the five games Paul played during this series, he turned the ball over just nine times…total.

Houston’s team average in the five games prior to Saturday night’s blowout in Oakland was 13, and Harden himself averaged four turnovers per game.¬†Until Saturday night.

With Harden serving as the team’s primary ball handler, Houston’s offense just couldn’t stay cohesive. And once the wheels started coming off a little bit in the third quarter, it didn’t take a whole heck of a lot for them to come all the way off in the fourth quarter.

In the end, the Warriors outscored the Rockets 64-25 in the second half.

Due to the wave of turnovers, and due to an offensive explosion by Klay Thompson, who seems to live for elimination Game 6s, the Rockets simply had no way to continue absorbing the punches Golden State was throwing.

Speaking of punches, Paul is only one of the best perimeter defenders the NBA has to offer. So even though Houston valiantly fought to keep Golden State down in this one, they just didn’t have enough top defenders to keep the Warriors from going off.

Obviously things will be different in Game 7. It’s in Houston, for one. The Warriors are almost unbeatable at home but are definitely vulnerable on the road. But if Chris Paul is able to play — and given the way he was pining to play Saturday night we have no doubt he’ll do everything in his power to be in the lineup for Game 7 — the Rockets have all the tools they need to knock off the defending champs.

If he’s unable to play, then this scribe predicts the Warriors will make it back to the NBA Finals for the fourth season in a row.