HOUSTON – So much rides on a game that goes beyond which team reaches the final and which one reaches for the golf clubs.
Reputations and images and legacies can and will also be determined in this winner – take all the battles between the Warriors and Rockets. This is the way of professional sport and instant analysis and destiny, both of the teams and the player and coach.
Here are the key figures in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals:
* James Harden He has been the second-best player in the NBA for the past three years, claiming that he has twice won the Kia MVP took third place and maybe this season will win the prize.
But LeBron James went to the final three times in that period and won once. Harden, however, does not know what June basketball has been like since joining the Rockets.
He will have his best chance on Monday. He will be in his place playing in front of his audience, 48 minutes away from LeBron and the Cavaliers for a championship.
If he loses against the warriors, then Harden will keep the crown as Best Active Player without a Championship, That's no honor he embraces. With the ability to play this game without Chris Paul, Harden would have to explode for 40 points or more. And that could not be enough.
He is still in his best years, but it is not guaranteed that he will reach the finals, let alone win. Do you remember how Oklahoma City was "destined" to return to The Finals when Harden played there?
* Kevin Durant . His championship demons were destroyed last summer when he joined a loaded team and did exactly as everyone expected. But Durant has not signed up for a one-and-done. The only way to justify OKC is to win several titles.
His performance in this series has become hot and cold. This is not the same Durant that broke through in the last spring and summer; He sometimes seems confused by Houston's defense. If he goes flat and loses the Warriors, the sensitive Durant may not want to stay on the social networks.
* Chris Paul Warrior coach Steve Kerr said what everyone feels about Paul and his thigh injury: It stinks. Paul has earned so much more, especially after such a solid run through the playoffs in each round, including Steph Curry until injury.
Paul never reached the final of the conference until now and at 33 the odds of playing for the championship are running out. He becomes a hero in Houston when he draws a Willis Reed and inspires the Rockets in Game 7 when he beats his buddy LeBron in The Finals.
If not? Then he'll wonder why the basketball gods are against him.
* Steph Curry A fourth trip to the Finals would make Curry the LeBron of the West. He shook off a shootout to recover in this series and rescued the Warriors before retiring from six games.
* Mike D & # 39; Antoni For D & # 39; Antoni there would finally be a confirmation, should he survive a victory the four All-Star Warriors, especially he should do it without Paul in Game 7.
D & # 39; Antoni too often heard that his offenses were not built for the postseason, but nobody says so now. Anyway, the Rockets use a very different system than the one he used in Phoenix. Translated: Give him credit for adjusting and cooking a crime to suit the talents of his players and not the other way around.
Also, with the help of chief science coach Jeff Bzdelik, the defense of the Rockets causes many problems for the warriors of this series. Overall, D & # 39; Antoni has pressed the right buttons.
* Steve Kerr. Did he already do enough for the Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach at two championships? If not, then a fourth trip to the finals could be the trick.
But Kerr has not always convinced his players to stay calm in the fourth quarter. Why did the warriors' offensive in Games 4 and 5 suffer costly collapses? Yes, the defense of Houston rose, but adjustments from Golden State came slowly, if at all.
* Andre Iguodala He is not expected to play Game 7, and when the Warriors advance, ask yourself if he'll be ready for another shot at LeBron. The Warriors gave him a nice contract extension here at dusk, because of what he means to them in spring and summer. You could use his on-court leadership.
* Draymond Green. The warriors are still looking for a breakout game in this series from their emotional leader. It's not that Green was a ghost; he just did not get up in the small line-up or made his presence known on a large scale, except for the referees (1
* Daryl Morey Often Morey was hailed as one of the top managers in the game and built this Rockets team up to help the warriors beat. He traded for Paul last summer and signed P. J. Tucker, and these two have repaid this belief with solid playoff benefits.
How many times does Morey have to tweak the Rockets here in the Harden era before Houston finally beats gold? For his sake, it was hopefully the last time. But again, much depends on Paul's Achilles tendon. Sometimes the fate of your team is beyond your control. Sometimes you need luck.
* Houston This city endured a deadly tide, then rose with the help of ordinary citizens and a handful of local athletes and celebrities, and then celebrated its first triumph in the Astros World Series. Houston has been in the headlines for the last few months and would like to add another Monday night.
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