Decisive Game 7
IT’S a win-or-go-home survival game for the reigning National Basketball Association (NBA) titlist Golden State Warriors and the playoffs’ top-seeded Houston Rockets as they battle each other today (Manila time) at the Toyota Center in the decisive Game Seven of the Western final series.
Golden State, which had dropped two consecutive games in the series, forced a decisive Game 7 when they walloped the Chris Paul-less Rockets, 115-86 (after trailing 39-22 at first quarter’s end), last Sunday at the Oracle Arena behind the combined 64-point, 14-three-pointer performance of Splash Brothers Klay Thompson (35, nine triples) and Stephen Curry (29, five triples) to offset the Rockets’ presumptive NBA Most Valuable Player awardee James Harden, who collected 32 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
The Warriors are 4-1 when facing elimination in the playoffs dating back to their 2015 title finish.
Overall, the Rockets are 6-4 in Game 7s while the Warriors, including previous stays in Philadelphia and San Francisco, are 4-5.
The West finale to be hosted by the Rockets is the 133rd Game Seven in NBA postseason history with the home team emerging triumphant 105 times against 27 losses for a winning percentage of .795.
That 27th road outfit to capture a Game Seven was Cleveland, which accomplished the feat with an 87-79 win at Boston yesterday.
The Warriors are seeking to reach the Finals for the 10th time overall, including previous stays in Philadelphia and San Francisco. Only two other franchises have turned in the trick – the Los Angeles Lakers, who have been involved in 31 Finals (winning an all-time second-best 16 championships) and the Boston Celtics, who have appeared in 21 Finals (winning a league-high 17).
The Houston vs. Golden State victor goes on to face rejuvenated LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals that unwrap on June 1 (Manila time) armed with a home-court advantage under the 2-2-1-1-1 format.
The East finals also came down to a Game Seven yesterday (Manila time) at Boston’s TD Garden with Cleveland registering a thrilling 87-79 decision over the Celtics behind James’ brilliant line of 35 points (12-24 FGA, 3-8 3FTA, 8-11 FTA), 15 rebounds, nine assists and a pair of blocks while playing the entire 48 minutes.
James thus advanced to the NBA Finals for an eighth consecutive year – the first non-Boston Celtics player to accomplish the feat – and joined K.C. Jones and Frank Ramsey for the fourth longest streak in NBA Finals history. Only Jones and Ramsey’s Celtics mates Bill Russell (10), Sam Jones (nine), Tom Heinsohn (9) owned longer streaks.
Cleveland, on the other hand, became the fourth franchise in the NBA’s 72-year history to earn a fourth straight Finals trip, joining Boston, which did it twice (1957-66 with a 9-1 record and 1984-87 with a 2-2 mark), Los Angeles Lakers (1982-85 with two titles) and Miami (2011-14 with a pair of championships behind LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh).
In the East finale, James got a lot of help from his supporting cast. Jeff Green, who had open-heart surgery in December 2011 due to an aortic aneurysm that forced him to miss the entire 2011-12 season (while then under contract with Boston), started in place of the injured frontliner Kevin Love and chalked up 19 points (7-14 FGA, 2-9 3FGA, 3-4 FTA) and eight boards in 42 minutes, a huge follow-up to his 14-point, 31-minute effort in the Wine City unit’s 109-99 home success in Game 6 when Love went down in a head collision with exciting Boston rookie Jayson Tatum five minutes into the contest, was sidelined the rest of the way and eventually was placed under the NBA’s concussion protocol that forced Love to sit out Game Seven.
Guard J.R. Smith played tough defense and came out of a prolonged shooting slump to score 12 points (3-8 FGA, all from three-point range) in 42 minutes and Tristan Thompson, much maligned by his critics for his womanizing ways, started at center and contributed 10 markers and nine boards in 35 minutes of service.
Tatum topped the Celtics with 24 points in 42 minutes before fouling out in the final minute. Al Horford bounced back from a forgettable Game 6 performance to net 17 points (7-12 FGA). Guard Terry Rozier, however, went ballistic offensively in the final three minutes (after being kept on the bench for some time) and fired in three straight blanks that sealed Boston’s doom. Scary Terry wound up with a frigid four points on 2-for-14 field shooting, including 0-for-10 from three-point range, in 36 minutes.
Only eight men played for Cleveland while only seven saw action for Boston.
It was a sorry playoff exit for the Green, which was looking for its first trip to the NBA Finals since 2010 (when it took a 3-2 series lead but ended up losing a 4-3 decision to the Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers, including road defeats in the final two games).
Boston had been 37-0 when grabbing a 2-0 advantage in a best-of-seven playoff series. The odds were in their favor, for in NBA playoff history, teams that owned a 2-0 edge in a best-of-seven were 281-19 (a 93.7 percent probability of a series win).
Indeed, the Celts did lead, a 2-0, against Cleveland in the East finals but they could not hold on and were unceremoniously taken out in seven games by the Cavaliers. James is now 3-4 in Game Sevens when sinking into a 0-2 hole.
The Hub City squad was 10-0 at home in the current playoffs (heading into Game Seven) but James again was not to be denied, willing the Cavs to their fifth victory in seven Game Sevens and, personally, his sixth straight win in eight Game Sevens with Cleveland and Miami.
Boston had been 23-8 in Game 7s, including a win over Milwaukee in the first-round playoffs, and 20-4 at home following the series triumph against the Bucks.
But in Game 7 of the East finals against Cleveland, the Celtics wilted under pressure at crunch time and lost for the first time in a conference final Game Seven since the Philadelphia 76ers, led by the legendary Julius Erving, beat them, 120-106, at the old parquet Boston Garden after nearly blowing a 3-1 advantage. (Before yesterday, the Celts had not lost a Game 7 at home since being beaten by the Orlando Magic, 101-82, at the TD Banknorth Garden in the East conference semifinal game on May 17, 2009.
This marks the first time since 1979 that both conference finals reached a Game Seven. At the time, the Washington Bullets (now Wizards) beat the San Antonio Spurs (then residing in the Central Division) for the East title and the Seattle SuperSonics (the predecessors of the Oklahoma City Thunder) defeated the Phoenix Suns for the West crown. Seattle went on to win the 1979 NBA title with a 4-1 victory over Washington.
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