One of three conference semifinals series tied up at two, the Golden State Warriors hosted the Houston Rockets in Game 5 Wednesday night.
Given that 82 percent of the teams that win this pivotal game end up advancing, we knew it was a huge affair for both teams.
Golden State went on two huge runs in the first half to carry a 14-point lead into intermission. The team played sloppy after that. And once Kevin Durant went down with a seemingly serious lower-leg injury, Oracle was quiet.
That’s when Stephen Curry got out of his funk and James Harden went quiet. Curry scored 16 of his points after Durant’s injury late in the third quarter. In the end, Golden State came out on top with a 104-99 victory over Houston to take a 3-2 series lead.
Here are the top takeaways from this thrilling Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
Stephen Curry comes up big
Minus a five-point sequence midway through the second quarter, Curry shot 0-of-6 from the field, including missing on all five of his three-point attempts in the first half. This is a continuation of Curry shooting 26% from distance in the Warriors’ two losses in Houston.
Everything changed once Durant was sidelined to injury. Curry took control of the offense. He made two three-pointers and was aggressive going to the hoop. the two-time MVP might not be 100%, but he showed his true grit Wednesday night.
James Harden’s disappearing act
Everything seemed set up for Harden to dominate once Durant was sidelined. After all, Golden State had to play the combination of Shaun Livingston, Stephen Curry and Jonas Jerebko on him. What followed was complete and utter insanity.
Harden entered the fourth quarter with north of seven minutes remaining. He ended up taking one shot during that span — a lay up with 18 seconds remaining. We legit have no idea what Harden was doing there. He had to stay aggressive. He failed. And it cost Houston.
The three-point game was off for Houston
The combination of James Harden, Chris Paul and Eric Gordon shot 8-of-25 from distance in Game 5. This comes after they connected on a combined 23 treys during the Rockets’ two-game sweep in Houston earlier in the series.
Outside of Harden’s lack of aggressiveness late in the game, Paul was nowhere to be found. He shot just 3-of-14 from the field and scored 11 points. This is going to have to change moving forward if the Rockets want to advance.
Picking on Draymond
Draymond Green has a reputation. He’s earned said reputation. Even then, the three first-half fouls he picked up Wednesday night were all questionable. That included an offensive foul late in the second quarter. This had put Green in foul trouble after he grabbed nine rebounds and dished out nine assists in the first half.
Green ultimately fouled out late in the fourth quarter after a questionable foul call. Minutes earlier, he was whistled for a technical after making contact with Paul. Whether that was intentional or Paul flopping remains to be seen.
Isolation ball failed the Rockets
Late in Game 4, the Rockets went straigh ISO with James Harden being guarded by lesser defenders. That worked out perfectly for the team in a narrow win against Golden State. The issue here is that the Warriors are one team that defends isolation ball at a great clip.
We saw this first hand on Wednesday. Whether it was Curry, Klay Thompson or the bigs out on the perimeter, they did a great job defending the Rockets’ offensive sets. With Harden failing to remain aggressive, this isolation ball failed Houston in a big way.
Kevin Durant’s injury might change everything
A long with Harden, Durant made some history throughout the first four games of the series. It’s a span that saw him average 36.0 points per outing. This didn’t change Wednesday night. Durant dropped 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field in the first half alone.
Unfortunately, Durant suffered a non-contact lower-leg injury in the third quarter and immediately headed to the locker room. The good news? Golden State announced it was a calf strain. Whether that remains the case after further tests on Thursday is not yet known. But it could change the landscape of the playoffs.
This is going seven games
Regardless of whether Durant can play Friday night in Houston, this series is still going seven games. The Rockets did everything possible to overcome multiple Warriors onslaughts at Oracle. While it was not enough to pull off a third consecutive victory, they have to be confident that they’ll win Game 6.
This is pretty much what the NBA wants. The television ratings have been huge for the series. Having a Game 7 in Oakland on Mother’s Day would be a ratings bonanza. Expect that to happen.