Rockets on brink of finals

Houston's Chris Paul going up for a shot as Golden State's Klay Thompson defends in Game Five of the NBA Western Conference Finals at Toyota Centre. Houston's 98-94 victory means they can eliminate the defending champions tonight in Oakland.
Houston's Chris Paul going up for a shot as Golden State's Klay Thompson defends in Game Five of the NBA Western Conference Finals at Toyota Centre. Houston's 98-94 victory means they can eliminate the defending champions tonight in Oakland.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Houston take 3-2 lead against Warriors as injured Paul hopes for quick return to play Game 6

HOUSTON (Texas) • Rockets point guard Chris Paul, who sat out the final seconds of Houston's win over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday because of a right hamstring injury, is optimistic that he will not miss additional action.

He told ESPN late on Thursday night: "I will be all right," adding that he expects to play in Game 6 of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Western Conference Finals tonight (tomorrow, Singapore time) in Oakland, California.

Coach Mike D'Antoni said to reporters post-game that Paul is "worried" about his status. The Rockets beat the Warriors 98-94 to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference Finals.

"We'll see (if he can play)," D'Antoni added. "He'll be evaluated. They'll do whatever they can do. If he's there, great. If he isn't, we have enough guys. We'll be all right."

Should Paul be unavailable, Eric Gordon would inherit the point guard role, the coach said. Gordon scored a team-high 24 points off the bench on Thursday.

Paul was hurt while driving the lane with under one minute to play. He did not head back on defence on the subsequent possession, and he was limping as he came out of the game with 22.4 seconds to go.

He missed all seven of his first-half field-goal attempts but went 6-for-12 after half-time to finish with 20 points. He added seven rebounds and six assists.

The Rockets, who led the league with 65 regular-season wins, can deny the defending champions Warriors a fourth straight trip to the championship series today.

"For us nothing changes," Houston star James Harden said of the team's mindset on the brink of the club's first trip to the Finals since winning back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995. "We just take it game by game, position by position, try to compete our butts off and give ourselves the best chance."

Golden State, whose streak of 16 straight home playoff wins was halted by the Rockets on Tuesday, may be trailing in the series but their coach Steve Kerr is unfazed.

"I feel great about where we are right now," he insisted. "That may sound crazy but I feel it. I know exactly what I'm seeing out there and we defended them beautifully tonight. I'm extremely confident that we're going to take care of business."

The winners of the series will face either the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals starting on May 31.

Kevin Durant led the Warriors with 29 points, but made just eight of 22 shots from the field and missed all four of his attempts in the fourth quarter.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2018, with the headline 'Rockets on brink of finals'. Print Edition | Subscribe