Playoff Exit Leaves More Questions Than Answers for Rockets

Saturday night was an epic failure, the magnitude of which we haven’t witnessed in a long time. The Houston Rockets, led by my MVP James Harden & Chris Paul, lost their second round series against the KD-less Warriors, marking the second straight season that Golden State has slashed Houston’s title hopes. By all accounts, Houston shouldn’t have lost. Last season, they lost CP3 in Game 5 and they blamed losing the series on that injury. This season, the team wasn’t as good as the standards that they had set last year, but this was no pushover of a squad. James Harden played his way to becoming a potential back-to-back MVP. The team finished top four this year in the West, and after easily handling the Jazz, the Rockets were poised for a rematch to get revenge and continue on their path to a title.

However, it didn’t go exactly as planned. Games one and two saw the Rockets lose close games at the Oracle. Houston returned to form in games three and four and made it a series. Game five started off in favor of the Warriors, with Klay Thompson snapping out of his funk he was in and coming out of the block hot. The Warriors stretched the lead to as many as 20 before with about 2 and a half minutes left in the third quarter, when KD came up lame after landing awkardly following a jump shot. The initial worry was a torn achilles tendon based on how he reacted, however it would later be learned it was a strained right calf. After that blow to the otherwise indestructible Warriors, the Rockets went on a solid run and even took the lead early into the fourth quarter. But after CP3 didn’t score for the final ten minutes of the game and the James Harden didn’t get any buckets in the final seven minutes, the Rockets ended up losing the game. Then Saturday night, the Rockets fought hard, but the Warriors sans KD returned to less iso ball and moved the ball around much more to help them take the game, and ultimately the series (4-2). Houston was stunned and dejected and left with more questions than answers going into another early offseason.

Houston had no excuses this year, and without KD playing, they couldn’t close the deal at home and push the series to a game seven. For a team that had so much promise and seemed to be destined to win an NBA title, where can the Rockets go from here? The formula they have stuck with for two years now just isn’t working against the reigning champs.

Harden isn’t show time. Period. The Houdini act that he pulled in the 4th quarter of both games five and six should be a permanent stain on his basketball resume. I understand that Golden State was at times trapping him and forcing the ball out of his hands, but the great players find a way to be effective and give their team a chance to win. Chris Paul by all accounts made up for his horrendous game five and played great in game six, but it was too late. If he had simply done half of what he did in game six, this series could’ve swung in favor of Houston. Instead, Paul just flat out didn’t produce and is also at fault for Houston not going to the Finals this season. With another early offseason for H-Town, where do they go from here? Have they hit their ceiling? Can they simply never beat the Warriors? The questions need to be answered and answered soon, because unless they can win a title in the next few years, it’ll be a long time before Houston will sniff title contention.

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