Chris Paul would have carried the Houston Rockets to the NBA Finals.
That was a popular opinion coming from the team in the wake of Monday’s Game 7 defeat at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, who punched their ticket on Houston’s home floor for a fourth consecutive NBA Finals meeting with LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Paul did not play in the final two games of the Western Conference finals due to a hamstring strain.
“It sucks because you know you could win this series if we just had one more playmaker,” Rockets guard Eric Gordon said following a 101-92 loss that ends Houston’s stellar season. “If we had Chris, if he was out there, we’d have been playing on Thursday. It’s just tough.”
Game 1 of the NBA Finals is Thursday in Oakland.
Paul was injured in the final 30 seconds of Game 5. Paul averaged 21.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.8 assists during the playoffs. He scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half of Game 5.
“That’s what C.P. was so good at in two (of the) games we won,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “They’d make a little run, he’d hit a 3. They make another run, and he makes another play. And you have to have those momentum changers and stoppers, and the last two games, we didn’t have them.”
At one point in Game 7, the Rockets went on a record cold streak with 27 consecutive misses from 3 point range. Houston was 7 of 44 from 3-point range in the game. Paul shot 37.4 percent from 3-point range in the playoffs.
“We don’t even think about that. We had an opportunity tonight and last game without Chris. Obviously, he’s a big part of why we’re here, but we had opportunities, especially in the first half both games,” Rockets All-Star James Harden said.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr had his own take on how injuries impacted the series. Golden State played the final four games of the series without Andre Iguodala, who was the primary defender on Harden in the first three games but was unable to take the court because of a bone bruise in his knee.
“We would have won the series in five if Iggy played,” Kerr said.
—Field Level Media