The Houston Rockets find themselves in an unenviable position: down 2-0 in the Western Conference Finals to the best team in basketball.
History tells us that the Rockets’ chances of winning this series are next to nil, as teams down 2-0 in a series have come back to win the series six percent of the time. So, did Thursday’s 99-98 loss to Golden State essentially end the Rockets’ season?
“Yeah, I think so,” Basketball Insiders managing editor Alex Kennedy said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I’ve been very impressed with the Rockets and how they’ve competed this series. I thought the Warriors were the much better team entering the series, but the Rockets have been competitive and the’ve withstood some really big runs from the Warriors and they’ve been able to fight back. So I think the Rockets have done a pretty good job competing, but it’s just so hard to dig out of that hole – and this Warriors team is just so good.”
The Rockets led by 16 points in Game 1 and rallied from a 17-point deficit in Game 2. They won neither. James Harden is averaging 33.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, 9.0 assists and 3.5 steals in the series. Trevor Ariza scored 20 points in Game 1. Dwight Howard had 19 points and 17 rebounds in Game 2.
And still Houston trails 2-0.
“You look at the numbers from the Rockets players, and it kind of feels like Houston gave them their best shot,” Kennedy said. “In these two games, James Harden has played excellent basketball, they’ve gotten contributions from some other players. It just feels like this was the Rockets’ best punch, and the Warriors were still able to win anyway. They were two close games, but I still think the Warriors are the better team here. Even though the Rockets competed, it’s going to be very tough for them to win this.”
Game 3 is Saturday in Houston at 9 p.m. ET.
One must wonder how differently this series might look had Howard not injured his knee. The Warriors attacked the paint much more freely with Howard on the bench in Game 1, and a fully healthy Howard could have been even more dominant in Game 2.
“It would have been way different, I think,” Kennedy said. “The Warriors may still have won, but you look at how close the games were with Dwight Howard not 100 percent. I think it’s very possible the Rockets could have won a game. He was so important for them entering this series just because this postseason, he’s been arguably their best player. Last series, there were times when James Harden was inconsistent and Howard had put up monster numbers. He’s been defending very well, he’s been rebounding well, he’s been scoring – he’s been so huge for them. But his injury early on really made things tough for them. They definitely don’t have the kind of depth down low to deal with that kind of injury. They were missing him for much of the season, but there’s no question they’re a much better team when he’s healthy.”