The Golden State Warriors head to Houston for Game 6 of their best-of-7 series with a 3-2 lead and the chance to close it out on the road Friday night. But, the Warriors aren’t exactly flying high after learning that leading scorer Kevin Durant is out for the rest of the series with a strained calf muscle.
Golden State was able to hold on to win Game 5 after Durant left the game in the middle of the third quarter, but Houston will certainly be more prepared to face the Warriors without Durant for this one.
The Rockets are a -7.5 point favorite to win Game 6 and even up the series on Friday night.
Coach Steve Kerr is going to have to get his team to revert to focusing on the “Splash Brothers” for most of the offense with Durant sidelined. Stephen Curry came alive in Game 5 after Durant was sidelined, scoring 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, though he continued to struggle with his shot, hitting just 9-of-23 shots from the field, including 3-of-11 from three-point range. Klay Thompson rebounded from a bad Game 4 with a team-high 27 points, hitting 5-of-10 from long range and scoring the game-clinching basket in the final minute.
Without Durant, the Warriors will need to do more cutting and moving without the basketball, something that helped the team be successful even before Durant joined the team. Draymond Green may be called upon to be more of a scorer, while Andre Iguodala and Shawn Livingston will need to look for their shot more. One X-factor will be the play of Kevon Looney, who finished with just five points in Game 5 but was a major presence, grabbing five offensive rebounds and assisting on Thompson’s game-clinching hoop.
The Rockets know they blew a chance to come home with a lead in the series and the ability to close out the two-time defending champions in Houston. James Harden finished Game 5 with 31 points, but he took just four shots in the fourth quarter with the game tight. He’ll need to be more aggressive, and he won’t have to worry about having the lengthy Durant shadowing him defensively.
Getting off to a good start is a must for the Rockets, who had to fight back from a 20-point deficit in Game 5 and have yet to lead a game in this series at the end of the first quarter. PJ Tucker has really stepped up both offensively and just making the hustle plays the team needs, and he’ll need to continue to do that. Eric Gordon had a difficult shooting night in Game 5, hitting just 3-of-10 from three-point range, but he did finish with 19 points. Chris Paul will be looking for a better game after he missed all six of his three-point attempts and hit just 3-of-14 from the field in scoring only 11 in the Game 5 loss.
Houston Ties Series
The Rockets have played well at both venues in this series, but they’ve been better in games at Toyota Center. Houston has been more aggressive getting to the basket when playing at home, and I fully expect them to do the same in this one, especially with Durant out. Golden State will look to find its rhythm offensively without its leading scorer, but they’ll have a tough time holding down the Rockets defensively. Take Houston -7.5 in this one, as they’ll be looking to run it up to gain momentum for Game 7.