In the regular season, the Houston Rockets made an NBA-record 1,256 threes on a record 3,470 attempts — that’s 15.3 threes per game on 36.2 percent shooting. It was the lifeblood of their offense.
In Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, the Rockets missed 27 threes in a row at one point.
For the game the Rockets were 7-of-44 from three (15.9 percent). With a trip to the Finals on the line, that’s not good enough.
“It’s like they say, it’s a make or miss league. They made them and we missed them,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said.
For the second straight game the Rockets gave a heroic effort in the first half on both ends to lead the Warriors by double digits, only to look tired and miss shots in the second half, miss defensive rotations, and just wear down.
And once again, as it has been all series, the third quarter is when the Warriors come alive — they outscored the Rockets 33-15 in the quarter, led by Stephen Curry’s 14 points. He was doing Curry-like things.
The result was a 101-92 Warriors victory on the road in Houston.
With the win, Golden State advances to its fourth straight NBA Finals. Those Finals start Thursday in Oakland, where the Warriors will be heavy favorites in the fourth straight matchup against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
For the second straight game, the Rockets showed amazing grit in the first half, playing physical defense and attacking the rim — the Rockets had 56 points in the paint on the night. They played like a contender. They forced the Warriors into mistakes, and they made a lot of them — 10 turnovers and 11 offensive rebounds given up in the first 24 minutes.
“I was thinking of resigning,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of his reaction to the first half. “I walked in at halftime and said I didn’t recognize this team.”
He did in the second half. The Warriors found another gear while the Rockets showed how much they missed Chris Paul. They missed CP3s defense, and they missed his stabilizing presence on the offensive end.
Not that the Rockets gave up, they make a 7-0 fourth-quarter run to keep it close, but it’s hard to make up ground when Kevin Duran is making contested shots like this.
Like most Game 7s, it wasn’t pretty.
It was a first quarter neither team could particularly like — Steve Kerr called it the “one of the worst quarters of basketball we’ve ever played” in his TV interview — the Rockets were up five and it felt like it should have been more. Neither team shot well, it felt like a Game 7 with guys intense but it’s sloppy.
The Rockets really brought that energy on defense. In the first quarter, with Thompson sidelined with foul trouble for 10 minutes, it put another non-shooter on the floor (Jordan Bell, Shaun Livingston, Draymond Green) that the Rockets could help off of. With that, the Rockets defense looked much sharper
In the second, that energy led to the Rockets being up by 15 thanks to turnovers and offensive rebounds. Houston grabbed the offensive rebound on 38 percent of their missed shots in the first half, and the Warriors turned the ball over on 21.7 percent of their of their possessions — that led to 11 more shot attempts. Not coincidentally the Rockets were up by 11, 54-43 at the half. The Rockets got 30 points on 27 shots combined from James Harden and Eric Gordon in the first half. They were making it work.
Then came the onslaught in the third. While Golden State played well, Houston shot 0-of-14 from three in the third.
At that point, it was just too much ground to make up.