HOUSTON – How fitting: If the Warriors are going to end their agreement with the Cavaliers, they'll have to copy LeBron James's latest rare talent.
For the past four seasons, Golden State and Cleveland have ruled headlines, traded titles and held their respective conferences, becoming the first pair of teams to meet in the NBA finals for three consecutive years. On Sunday, James and the Cavaliers reached the final with a pounding 87-79 Game 7 victory over the Celtics in Boston. Now the Warriors have to celebrate their own Game 7 victory on Monday to keep their championship hopes alive.
There were good reasons to believe that the Cavaliers would be able to win the story of Game 7 and reach the final. For the eighth time in a row, who reach the final, had a great advantage over the experience Celtics, who were heavily dependent on young players due to injuries of the stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
The Warriors also went to the West Final as favorites In this series, they have two knockout wins over the Rockets, and star Chris Paul is narrowed down or eliminated due to an Achilles tendon injury sustained in Game 5. Given these factors, Golden State is considered a favorite by the odds-makers Monday
While circumstances made it difficult to defend against the Cavaliers or the Warriors, victories in the playoffs in Game 7 were rare over the years. In fact, the Cavaliers became the first team to win a Street 7 game in the Eastern Conference Finals since the 2006 Pistons. In addition, the Sixers of 1982 are the only other team in the three-point era who could win a game 7 in the East Final on the road.
Meanwhile, the Warriors want to be the first team to win a Road Game 7 In the Western Conference finals since the 2002 Lakers, the Kings have been out in overtime. NBA historians will remember that LA's victory over Sacramento was established by a game 6 that continues to be popular with conspiracy theorists.
The West Final, which led to the third consecutive title for Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, marked that only during the three-point era did the street team win the game 7 of the West End Games. All in all, the home teams in the West Final are 7-2 in the era of firefights (since 1954-55) and 5-1 during the three-point era (& # 39; 79 -80).
"We have a home court and there is a preference for it," said Rocket coach Mike D & # 39; Antoni. "It may not be as high as most people, because we are playing against the best team in the league, but it's a small advantage [that]." If you roll, you can hear the crowd, you can feel the energy, you can do it all. "
The story of the last game 7 does not provide much guidance for the Rockets or the Warriors. Since James Harden's arrival in Houston, the Rockets have played only one game in seven: a win in the second round over the Clippers in 2015, which sent them to the West End.
Golden State's track record in Game 7s is, well, mixed. Under coach Steve Kerr, the Warriors are 1-1 in Game 7s, the Thunder beat in the Western 2016 final and lose against the Cavaliers in the 2016 finals. Both games were played at home in the Oracle Arena. Remarkably, since 1948, when the franchise was still in Philadelphia and the NBA was not officially formed, the Warriors have not won Game 7 in a playoff series.
D & # 39; Antoni gave no clarity on Paul's condition on Sunday and told reporters that the nine-time All-Star could be a playing time decision with a tense right Achilles tendon. Paul traveled with the Rockets to Oakland for Game 6, but D & # 39; Antoni said Paul has not worked since he sustained the injury.
"I do not think he even tested it," said D & # 39; Antoni. "He's getting treatment and trying to be sure that it calms down and everything." The doctors and trainers work on it nearly 24 hours a day, they'll re-evaluate it tomorrow [Monday] He is ready to go to the doctors who get a nod. "
Though the Warriors gain momentum in a sweeping Game 6 victory thanks to Klay Thompson's breakthrough, they face a major injury issue of their own. Andre Iguodala, the 2015 Final MVP, opened the West Finals as a starter before suffering a bone damage in his knee, forcing him to miss the last three games.
"If Andre can play, he will play," Kerr said. "I would call him doubtful just because it was so long ago and he was in a lot of pain, he does everything he can to be on the floor, gets treatment several times a day, and does everything right, it just has not responded . "
Kerr, who said that he" did not think a bit "about his team losing Game 7 in the 2016 final in preparation for Monday, downplayed the importance of the venue. Golden State lost its only road game in Houston during the regular season and is in the Toyota Center during this series 1-2.
"It's just a street game for us," Kerr said. "It's a home game for them, it's the same advantage or disadvantage as any other game, to be honest, we know we have a veteran team, we have people who have gone through almost everything and we have a lot of self-confidence. "
The Rockets, to their credit, have given up nothing in this series. They played brilliantly in the first half of the Game 6 loss, scoring 39 points in the first quarter, and despite Paul's premature injury they remained convincingly optimistic. While trying to spoil Warriors / Cavaliers IV, the Rockets can look back on the glory days of their franchise to strengthen Game 7. Houston's 1994 and 1995 title hopes with Hakeem Olajuwon included three Game 7 wins, including a home win over Patrick Ewing Knicks in the 1994 Finals.
"If you asked us if we were in the Bahamas this summer, if we could have a Western Conference Finals Game 7 against the Warriors to go to the finals," Harden said. There's no pressure, it's an opportunity we'll all like to take part in: Game 7 in our house, we spent the whole regular season getting home advantage. "
Houston's MVP Contestant was confident that the enthusiasm of the Toyota Center Crowd would remain high in Game 6 despite the overwhelming comeback of Golden State.
"I do not need to say anything [to the crowd]," said Harden on Saturday. We will have it, we have a whole city behind us, and they are as loyal as they come Game 7 in H-Town: Let's get it. "