13-year-old LeBron James Jr. came stunningly close to throwing down his first dunk
It's only a matter of time.And while most 13-year-old kids cannot dunk, it's only a matter of time until LeBron Jr. throws down his first dunk on a 10-foot goal. He's already coming awfully close.
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It was a great season, though that offers little solace now. If anything, the excellence along the way made what could have been more apparent, the disappointment, and even the pain, likely deeper and more unrelenting.
BOX SCORE: WARRIORS 101, ROCKETS 92
The Rockets were right. They really were good enough to beat the Warriors. The best team of the 2017-18 season was at least in position to beat one of the best teams of any season. Good enough to have a chance was not good enough.
Mike D’Antoni Lost the Mustache, and Found Himself
Once known just for flashy offense, D’Antoni has the Rockets on the verge of the finals. His brother Dan is even considering coming to a game.A serendipitous stretch of N.B.A. schedule in March allowed Mike D’Antoni to be in the building when his brother Dan coached Marshall University to the school’s first N.C.A.A. tournament berth in 31 years. Mike D’Antoni’s Houston Rockets happened to be in Dallas on the same weekend that Dan’s Thundering Herd won the Conference USA championship game in nearby Frisco, Texas.
The Rockets will be tormented by all that went wrong when they needed one more win. They will think about those initial second-half minutes in Game 6 when a few more plays could have prevented the tidal wave.
They will think about all those 3s, 27 straight, that they missed in a 24-minute stretch when they got the shots they want and could not make them.
Mostly, they will think about how Chris Paul, the player that joined them just for opportunities like these, had that chance at the Finals snatched away from the cruel timing of a hamstring injury with the Rockets on the brink.
It was a great season, but that made the defeat greatly disappointing. Mike D'Antoni called it "devastating." Gerald Green said it was "heartbreaking."
The Rockets spent the season not just wanting to be the team that upset the Warriors but believing they would be. Being worthy of that dream made the end that much more painful.
5 reasons the Cavaliers won, all of which are LeBron James
Here are five reasons the Cavaliers won: all of which are LeBron James. The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics 109-99 on Friday to force a Game 7 in the Eastern finals. Here are five reasons the Cavaliers won.
1. The Rockets missed 27 straight 3-pointers and 29 of 30, but they did not lose because of their style or their system or for whatever reasons those that hate math will decry their offense.
They lost because they missed. They would have lost if they missed those shots from 20 feet or missed from 18 feet. Misses tend to count the same no matter the distance.
The Rockets are more likely to make wide-open 3s than they are to hit sort-of open jumpers from closer. With Chris Paul and his mid-range magic out, they don't have the option to do much more off the dribble than they did.
They have standstill catch-and-shoot gunners on the roster. That's what they do well. They did it very poorly in Game 7, but that does not they could have chosen to transform themselves into masters of jump hooks or Dream Shakes. With Paul out, they did not have the depth to sit Trevor Ariza as he went 0 for 12 or Gerald Green as he made 1 of 7 shots.
Warriors operating like Andre Iguodala will not play in Game 7
The Golden State Warriors have played three games in the Western Conference Finals without Andre Iguodala, and they’re preparing to make it four. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was asked after his team’s 115-86 win over the Houston Rockets in Game 6 on Saturday about Iguodala’s status and gave a pessimistic answer.“We’re operating under the assumption he will not play,” Kerr said. “But he is literally day to day.”Iguodala hurt himself after bumping knees with James Harden late in Game 3. Even though an MRI on his knee came back clean, he has not been able to play yet.
So they kept playing and they kept missing. James Harden, who made 2 of 13 3s, took some contested 3s he should not have. He had a couple in which he seemed to be fouled in the act of shooting, even with the revised rules, that likely should have been considered shooting fouls, one that went in.
But even with Harden's misfiring from deep, he still got inside enough to make 10 of 16 shots inside the arc and to set up Clint Capela from many of his 20 points.
The Rockets had 56 points in the paint, matching their most in the series with the Game 2 rout, and that was without Chris Paul and Luc Mbah a Moute, a skilled finisher. They doubled the Warriors' paint scoring so the issue was not with the style, it was with the shooting.
The Warriors' collection of sharpshooters can and often do make shots no team has ever made as reliably. But the Rockets did not have to make the sorts of 3s Stephen Curry put in. They needed to make the sorts of shots they had made all season. When they could not, there was nowhere to turn.
2. The Rockets will likely forever believe they would have won the series if Chris Paul had been able to complete it. We'll never know.
Warriors vs. Rockets: Things will be different for Game 7 in Houston
It’s going to be different in Houston. So different, it will be wise for Warriors fans to acknowledge a well-worn truth about Game 7 in every sport.It’s going to be different in Houston. So different, it will be wise for Warriors fans to acknowledge a well-worn truth about Game 7 in every sport: Just forget everything you’ve learned.
They would have undoubtedly been a better team with him than without. He had joined the Rockets just for nights like these. His ability to rise to occasions, as he had in Game 5 when the Rockets moved to within one win of the NBA Finals, demonstrated that. His mid-range game was desperately missed Monday, when the Rockets made just one shot that was not in the paint or from the 3-point line.
The Rockets cannot assume that they would have beaten the Warriors if Paul had not been taken out by a hamstring injury in the final minute of Game 5. They would have almost certainly been much tougher to beat. The Warriors might have elevated their game even further to do it.
The Rockets can only wonder, and that adds to the distress.
When much of the league believed that toppling the giant that the Warriors became when Kevin Durant joined a 73-win team was an impossible dream, the Rockets loaded up to take their run.
When they won 65 regular-season games, adding 11 playoff wins to collect more wins this season than any Rockets team ever has, they came to believe this would be their year and never doubted, even when Paul went out.
They won't know for sure what they would have done had Paul played, but they will still believe they would have beaten the Warriors.
Paul will have to deal with another incredibly agonizing bit of hard luck. After so many of his hopes had been dashed by injuries that either he or his teammates suffered, he went beyond any of his previous seasons and to the brink of a Finals he and the Rockets would have been favored to win.
Chris Paul reportedly has Grade 2 hamstring strain
Chris Paul’s hamstring injury is apparently pretty significant. Paul was ruled out for Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals on Monday, which will mark the second straight game of the series he will miss for the Houston Rockets against the Golden State Warriors. He suffered the injury late in Game 5. Even if his Rockets were to advance to the NBA Finals, there’s no guarantee he would be able to play.
Instead, he was again left to consider what could have been.
He will be a free agent, still able to command a superstar's contract. The Rockets might want to consider Paul's injuries when they make their offer. But for all they can't know about what would have happened had he played, they will know how much better they were with him than without, likely the driving consideration as they rebuild their roster and their hopes.
3. The Rockets were too good of a team to have so many decisions facing them this summer, but that is how this team was constructed.
Of their usual rotations players, five – Clint Capela, Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza, Luc Mbah a Moute and Gerald Green – are free agents. All will want to return. The Rockets were not just very good; they were very close.
Capela is a restricted free agent likely to get the kind of offer designed to scare the Rockets off. They likely will match any offer sheet he signs.
They nearly as certainly have already decided they want Paul back. It was clear again that they need him.
Mbah a Moute and Green might not command too much considering they did not in the past summer and this offseason will be even more crowded with coveted free agents.
Ariza could be more difficult to predict. The Rockets value everything he brings and he is a glue guy beyond the court. He is one of those guys that is close to everyone in the room and those relationships make him likely to want to return. But Ariza is 32, likely headed to his last big contract. With the league turning increasingly to the use of 3-and-D types, his strengths and his professionalism will likely draw plenty of interest.
Ted Cruz's Attempt At Tweeting Sports Did Not Go Well
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tried to show some support on Twitter for the Houston Rockets as the team faced the Golden State Warriors on Monday night. It didn’t go well. The Warriors won, 101-92, eliminating the Rockets. Golden State now advances to the NBA finals, where they will face the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cruz was not only mocked for his tweet, but some even blamed him for the team’s defeat, using the #CruzCurse hashtag. Here’s Cruz’s initial message: Minutes before tipoff.... @HoustonRockets#ClutchCity GO ROCKETS!!!! pic.twitter.
The Rockets won't want to take a step back. They came close enough to the Warriors to seek a way to take those final steps. Tilman Fertitta has repeatedly said he expects to keep his important players and to pay the enormous salaries and luxury taxes that will require.
Nothing can be certain in free agency. And the Rockets will likely have to seek ways to improve beyond having Paul and Mbah a Moute healthy at the right time. Getting better, however, will be difficult with the best team general manager Daryl Morey has ever had.
Ryan Anderson and Nene could barely get on the floor in the conference finals. There won't be much demand. The Rockets don't have young players pressing for playing time. They don't have their first round pick.
Changes will be difficult. Morey might be ready to work to keep his free agents, then return to the trade market he sat out last season. But making a 65-win team better could be as tough as getting this good was in the first place.
Related slideshow: 2018 NBA playoffs (provided by photo services)
Klay Thompson of the Warriors shoots a three-point attempt as James Harden of the Rockets defends during Game Six of the Western Conference Finals in the NBA Playoffs on May 26 in Oakland, California. The Warriors won 115-86.
The Warriors' Stephen Curry shoots against the Rockets guard Eric Gordon (10) and James Harden during the fourth quarter in Game Four of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs on May 22 in Oakland, California. The Rockets won 95-92.
The Warriors' Kevin Durant handles the ball against the Rockets' Gerald Green during Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on May 20 in Oakland, Calif. Golden State won 126-85 to take a 2-1 series lead.
LeBron James of the Cavaliers shoots the ball against Marcus Morris of the Celtics in the first half during Game Three of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals on May 19 in Cleveland, Ohio. Cavaliers won 116-86.
Joel Embiid of the 76ers gets into an altercation with Terry Rozier (12) of the Celtics as Jayson Tatum (0) and Marcus Morris (13) of the Celtics and Ben Simmons (25) of the 76ers try to break them up on May 7 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Raptors' Jonas Valanciunas, Cavaliers JR Smith and LeBron James watch as a Fred VanVleet (not in picture) three pointer bounces off the rim at the end of the game as the Raptors drop Game One 113-112 during the NBA playoffs on May 1 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
The Warriors' Stephen Curry reacts after making a three-point basket against the Pelicans during Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals during the NBA Playoffs on May 1 in Oakland, California. The basket was his first attempt after returning from an injury.