The Golden State Warriors reached the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive year thanks to a 101-92 win over the Houston Rockets in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.
One of the main topics surrounding the game was the key injuries both teams were dealing with. The Warriors were without 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala for the last four games of the series, and the Rockets were without nine-time All-Star Chris Paul in Games 6 and 7.
Both teams had ripped off two consecutive wins before losing their starter and appeared to be taking control of the series. Golden State was up 2-1 with Game 4 at home when it lost Iguodala for the series and Houston had just taken a 3-2 lead and was one win away from the Finals when Paul went down.
According to Marc Spears of The Undefeated, Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni says the series goes a bit differently if Paul is available for one last game, but at the same time, Warriors coach Steve Kerr says with Iguodala on the court, the Paul injury would have never come into play.
The Rockets were understandably emotional after losing just one game shy of the NBA Finals, with Trevor Ariza, Clint Capela and P.J. Tucker in tears. Apparently, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told Warriors All-Star forward Kevin Durant during Game 7 that his team would have won the series if Paul played. While unwinding long after the win with Morton’s The Steakhouse cuisine and a cold one, Kerr responded to those words by saying, “We would have won the series in five if Iggy played.”
Say hello to the NBA’s newest rivalry: Warriors versus Rockets.
It's an interesting debate that we will never get an answer to. The Warriors lost Game 4 95-92 and Game 5 98-94 without Iguodala, but then the Rockets went down 115-86 in Game 6 and 101-92 in Game 7 without Paul while Iguodala was still sidelined. Maybe Paul's presence means more in the Game 6 and 7 losses than Iguodala's would have meant in Games 4 and 5, but we will never find out.
The Warriors will host the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals Thursday as they look to win a third title in four years and second consecutive championship.