The Houston Rockets have taken a one-game lead over the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 NBA Western Conference Finals. And they can move on to the NBA Finals with a victory in Game 6 or Game 7 (if necessary). Unfortunately for the Rockets, taking Game 6 will be much tougher without the services of starting point guard Chris Paul.
The 9-time All-Star hurt his hamstring in the final minute of a 98-94 victory. Paul now has to wait until after the team returns to Houston to be re-evaluated.
“I hope he’s healthy,” Trevor Ariza said Thursday night, before the team scratched Paul from their lineup. “I hope he gets better and, if not, somebody else has to step up and do what we’ve been doing all year, step in and try to help this team win.”
Let’s discuss how the injury happened, how bad it is, and what Paul’s absence does to Houston’s chances of winning Game 6.
Paul Couldn’t Get Off Floor After Win
Paul’s injury occurred after he took a shot in the lane within the final minute of Game 5. His hamstring was hurting so badly that he continued to sit on the floor while Golden State charged down the court with a 5-on-4 advantage.
But the Rockets got some help when Quinn Cook missed a wide-open three-pointer. Meanwhile, Paul sat on the floor 50 feet away watching the action. It was immediately clear that he wouldn’t be able to resume playing in the last seconds.
He checked out of the game with 22.7 seconds left and sat uncomfortably on the bench. He only briefly got up to see what was being said during a timeout.
Following the game, Paul limped to Houston’s locker room and avoided speaking to reporters as he was getting treatment. Head coach Mike D’Antoni said that the team trainers would “do whatever they could do” for Paul and that it’ll be “time for somebody else to step up” if he can’t play.
D’Antoni continued by saying, “We’ve got plenty of guys over there that will have some fresh legs, that’s for sure. So we’ll be all right.”
It’s already clear that Paul won’t be available for the sixth game. This is tough for the Rockets, given that they’ve mainly been using a six-man rotation in the last two games. Gerald Green, who’s been playing around 15 minutes as a seventh man, is likely to get more minutes at Oracle Arena.
How does Paul’s Injury Impact the Team?
The loss of Paul will severely limit the team’s chances of winning. He’s perhaps the main reason why the Rockets were able to topple Golden State in the last contest, as he scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half.
Paul’s contributions are crucial on a night when star James Harden was struggling from the field. Harden made just 5-of-21 shots, including 0-for-11 from three-point range.
It’s entirely likely that The Beard will bounce back in the sixth game of the series. But then again, Harden is infamous for declining as playoff series wear on. This is even more possible when considering that he’ll have to carry a bigger load with Paul out.
Rockets Warriors Game 6 Odds
You can see from our preview of Game 6 that Houston doesn’t stand much chance without their starting point guard. The point spread is +12.5, which is about as high as it gets in the playoffs.
Of course, Houston still has some solid players who can step up like Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, and Clint Capela. But nobody is giving them much of a chance to win a Game 6 that they don’t really need at Oracle. This is even more the case when considering that Golden State has won 15 straight games in their home arena.
The Rockets’ most-realistic hope to finishing off the series is for Paul to be near 100% for a potential/likely Game 7. But he must heal up quickly in order for this to happen.