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Keys to Rockets' Game 5 against Warriors

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(Getty Images)

HOUSTON – Had you told Rockets fans back in the summer, “Best-of-three series vs. the Warriors for the right to go to the NBA Finals, and Houston gets home-court advantage,” it’s a safe bet just about every Rockets fan would have asked where to sign.

That’s the situation now, following the dramatic come-from-behind victory by Houston in Game 4. As the series shifts back to the Toyota Center for Game 5, here’s a look at what the Rockets must do to take a 3-2 series lead:

1. Don’t leave the heart in San Francisco.

Visiting teams aren’t supposed to win playoff games in Oracle Arena. Golden State had won an NBA-record 16 straight postseason games at home, dating back to the start of the 2017 playoffs. Houston snapped that streak in Game 4 on Tuesday. Doing so required multiple comebacks from double-digit deficits. The Rockets trailed 0-12 to start the game, and the score was 80-70 entering the fourth quarter.

Climbing out of those holes required making tough shots, taking care of the basketball, playing tough defense and not allowing themselves to be out-hustled. The Rockets have to do all those things again if they want to win Game 5 on their home floor. The Warriors are the three-time defending West champs, and one of the greatest teams ever assembled. Every Rockets player has to play with intensity if Houston is to avoid a 3-2 series deficit.

2. Keep turnovers in check.

The Rockets’ trip to the Bay Area started with the worst playoff loss in franchise history – a 41-point drubbing in Game 3, where Golden State scored 28 points off 20 Rockets turnovers.

A team that features the greatest shooter in NBA history in Stephen Curry, another all-time great scorer in Kevin Durant, plus all-stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, does not need any help putting points on the board. The Rockets cannot allow the Warriors to get going in transition. Make Golden State work to score; don’t do them any favors.

In the two games Houston has won this series, it has turned it over 14 times and 13 times, which is about average. Giving it away more than that is doing the Warriors’ work for them.

3. Steady hand from the Point God.

Future Hall-of-Famer Chris Paul has been dogged for years about his lack of success in the postseason. This year, which is CP3’s 13th in the league, is his first appearance in a conference final. He’s currently battling a sore right foot that hasn’t always made it easy for him to explode and change directions.

While he may be a slightly different player than he was a decade ago, in Game 4, Paul showed he can still carry a team to victory. CP3 finished with 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting, including 5-for-9 from 3-point range. The Rockets need Paul to be the other half of their dynamic duo with James Harden to beat the Warriors. Houston is 5-0 these playoffs when CP3 scores at least 25 points.