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Keys to Rockets' Game 6 against Golden State Warriors

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HOUSTON – The Rockets should be over the moon after earning a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven western conference finals thanks to wins in game four and five. But Chris Paul hurt his right hamstring late in the game five win and he has been ruled out for Saturday night’s Game 6.

Houston has played the type of defense that could allow them to stay in any game and that is an absolute must if they hope to close out the Warriors, the defending champions, at their home building in Oakland. That’s the starting point for the keys to the game.

Extend the defense and be physical

The Rockets have been so good defensively they’ve forced the Warriors into an isolation ball nearly three times more often that they did during the rest of the regular season and playoffs prior to this series. The Warriors are not moving the ball and not creating assists. They are still making shots, but the Rockets are really making them work for them and that has to continue. Houston can’t afford to give Steph Curry, Klay Thompson or Kevin Durant any freedom and space anywhere near the three-point line.

Harden must play relaxed

It’s human nature for James Harden, like many other Rockets, to feel like they need to go above and beyond to make up for the loss of Paul, who has been the driving force for the offense in the second half of their last two wins. Harden missed all 11 of his three-point attempts in game five and takes an incredible 0-for-his-last-20 streak on three-point shots into game six. Two seasons ago with the Rockets facing elimination at the hands of the Warriors, Harden came up with a 45-point, nine-rebound, five-assist game to extend the Rockets season. That’s likely the type of performance the Rockets will need in this game six.

Bench has to bring it

Mike D’Antoni wouldn’t say who he expected to rejoin the rotation among Luc Mbah a Moute, Ryan Anderson and Joe Johnson. But along with Gerald Green, one of those players has to put the ball in the basket, must grab some important rebounds, must block a shot or two. Green is the fastest gunslinger around and he’ll certainly get an opportunity to make an impact offensively, but he also has to be locked in defensively. His athleticism should allow for a few blocked shots or a steal or two, but he has to avoid being the focus of the Warriors' isolation defense.
 
Houston knows they can win there, but they have also played three consecutive games without scoring 100 points. Winning a second time, at Oracle, against the defending champs, without Chris Paul, won’t happen unless they see a significant bump up on their three-point shooting.
 
The team is shooting just 34 percent on three-pointers and that figure is being dragged down by Harden’s 24.5 percent clip and Trevor Ariza’s 29.4 percent shooting.