For the first time in a long time, the dynasty could be in trouble as the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors face elimination against the Houston Rockets today in Game 6 of their series (9 PM ET Saturday).
This is not a position the Warriors have been in often. In fact, dating back to the 2016-17 season when the Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers to win their first of two back-to-back NBA titles, the team had lost just three playoff games and never once faced elimination. That is until this year’s Western Conference Finals as the Rockets, a team which Golden State has had no trouble defeating in past years, has the Warriors on the ropes. After losing just two games, one in each of their prior two series this postseason, the Warriors find themselves in unfamiliar territory. The Rockets likewise, find themselves in a position finally to be the team to break up the monotony of the past several years, which have seen the Warriors take on the Cavaliers in the championship.
Up 3-2, Game 6 heads back to the friendly confines of Oakland but if the Warriors do force a Game 7, the Rockets will have home court advantage. On the brink of elimination, this is not exactly the scenario Golden State would have hoped for. That being said, the Warriors are still one of the best teams in basketball and it would be silly to bet against them without considering all of the facts that will come into play. Predictions of their demise may be premature.
What We Know After Five Games
When the Western Conference Finals began, the Warriors entered in an unfamiliar position. That’s because for the first time in several years, the team was ceding its home court advantage. Not that losing home court was such a big deal given Golden State’s track record, but it was definitely something the team wasn’t used to.
In Game 1 however, the Warriors erased any doubt when they took home court back, defeating the Rockets 119-106. Kevin Durant, who has been the team’s best player throughout the year, had a statement game, scoring 37 points from a 14-of-27 shooting night. Stephen Curry added 18 and Klay Thompson had 28. All of Golden State’s starters recorded a plus on the plus/minus rating. The Rockets were led by NBA leading scorer James Harden, who dropped 41, shooting 14-of-24 and going 8-of-10 from the free throw line. Chris Paul added a double-double with his 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Game 2 saw the pendulum shift completely the other way as at home, the Rockets stunned the Warriors, giving them their largest playoff defeat in some time. Houston won 127-105 and had five players score at least 15 points. Harden and Paul did their jobs but the Rockets were aided by scoring from Trevor Ariza, who had 19 and PJ Tucker, who had a playoff career-high of 22. Off the bench, Eric Gordon scored 27, which was tied with Harden for team high. Contrasting the Rockets who had all starters with double digit pluses, the Warriors had all starters with double digit minuses. Despite scoring 38 points to lead all players, Durant had -28, the worst rating of the game. Curry shot just 1-of-8 from three point range as well, which is not a formula for Golden State’s success.
The Warriors played like the Warriors of old in Game 3, absolutely routing the Rockets 126-85. The 41-point victory was the largest in franchise history overtaking the previous high of 39 from 1948. It was the first game of the series back in Golden State and Curry especially dazzled in front of the home town crowd. For the Warriors, it was their 16th consecutive postseason win at home, which passes the Chicago Bulls for most of all-time. All five starters scored in double figures with Curry pacing all scorers with 35. Durant added 25 and led all players with the plus/minus rating of +27.
Against a weaker Rockets team, much like the ones the Warriors faced in the past, Game 3 would have been the dagger. Down 2-1, Houston would have quietly gone away with the hope of being able to try their luck against their rivals the following year. But not this time. Instead of fading away, Houston fought back to score two huge wins. While neither was as dominant as the team’s victory in Game 2, the Rockets played with poise and outplayed the Warriors as the clock wound down, which is something very few teams have been able to do during Golden State’s dynastic run of the past few years. Houston won Game 4 95-92 and Game 5 98-94, needing late game heroics both times. Harden and Paul combined for 57 in Game 4 while Curry and Durant dropped 55. In Game 5, Houston’s duo had just 39 compared to 51 from Golden State’s top two scorers but thanks to Gordon who added another strong game off the bench, the Rockets took the all-important 3-2 series lead.
With a potential Game 7 looming, the Rockets are hoping to end things before it gets that far. They will have a chance in Game 6 but several factors are working against them. For starters, Golden State is the home team. The Warriors weren’t flawless at home, in fact they were even going 29-12 both at home and away during the regular season. In the postseason however, they are 7-1 in Oakland. As an aside, if things do go to a Game 7 however, the Rockets should feel pretty confident given they were 34-7 at the Toyota Center during the regular season and 7-2 during the playoffs.
Another factor playing against Houston is the injury Paul sustained late in Game 5. Paul has been ruled out for today’s Game 6 and he will be re-evaluated for Game 7. If the series goes to seven and Paul can’t play, it is very likely the Warriors will find themselves back in the finals, looking for their third consecutive title.
Our Betting Preview’s Houston Rockets vs Golden State Warriors Game 6 Predictions & Picks
The best of the USA online sports betting websites have clearly noticed Paul’s absence and the impact it will have. The veteran point guard had been a leader throughout Houston’s run and was an instrumental part of them reaching this point in the postseason. Without him, Harden will need to play the best basketball game in his life and even then, it might not be enough. So our Rockets at Warriors Game 6 predictions look like this:
- The Warriors are favored by a whopping 12 points. In fact the spread ranges from 11.5pts to 12.5pts depending on the outlet. While our pick is for Golden State to force that do-or-die Game 7, we don’t expect Houston to lose by that margin. So bet on the Rockets +12.5pts @ -115 with Bookmaker.
- As for the total points scored pick of this preview, look for the over on 212pts @ -110 with 5Dimes. These two teams can score and expect to see a lot of offense early and often in this Game 6.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.