With 7:37 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Warriors up eight, Kevin Durant played host to his own island. The population was two; Durant’s only guest was James Harden.
Durant broke Harden down from about 30 feet from the rim before pulling and draining a deep, heavily-contested three. On the very next possession, Stephen Curry lost Clint Cappella with a stepback and drained a triple from the wing.
Kevin Durant 3-pointer in James Harden's face from DEEP pic.twitter.com/7vWinwAKeI— gifdsports (@gifdsports) May 29, 2018
Those shots were the final nails in the coffin. Again, the Rockets surged to a double-digit first-half lead, as they did in Game 6. Again, Golden State threw an even bigger knockout punch in the third, as they have all season.
Again, the Warriors are in the NBA Finals to face LeBron James after a 101-92 Game 7 win.
If there was a playoff series that has ever tested these Warriors’ resolve, this was it. Golden State cruised to the NBA Finals last season, then absolutely blasted the Cavaliers in five for their first championship in the Durant era. The ease with which they ravaged the league made basketball look silly. Why win games and get wiped off the face of the planet by the Warriors when you can punt a season for a good draft pick? These were serious questions Golden State forced entire franchises to think about.
But the Rockets didn’t bow down to the Warriors’ dominance. Instead, they doubled up. They went out and traded for Chris Paul, then signed P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute. They posted the best record in the NBA, supplanting a Warriors team expected to reach the Finals without a legitimate challenger. This Houston team was tailor-made to stop Golden State, and through six and a half games in the Western Conference Finals, it looked like they just might be able to pull it off.
But you can never finish off the Warriors. They’re just too good
With just under five minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Rockets made a push that cut the lead to just six. The game wasn’t over yet. The door was still open for Houston to come back.
But the Warriors went right back to Durant, who shot over Eric Gordon as if he wasn’t there. And judging by Gordon’s reaction to Durant’s shot, he might not have actually been there
One minute later, the Warriors went to Durant vs. Gordon again, the exact same matchup on the exact same side of the floor. Gordon played better defense this time. It didn’t matter.
Stephen Curry had 27 points on 50 percent shooting. Klay Thompson had 19 points despite serious foul trouble early on, and Draymond Green had another one of his stat-stuffing nights. But Durant has been the equalizer for this Warriors team for two seasons in a row. He’s the reason Golden State can’t be finished.
Durant scored 32 points on 11-of-21 shooting in Game 7. Only nine of those 32 came in the fourth quarter, but every one of those points was a debilitating basket that sucked the life out of the Rockets playoff chances. The Warriors went to Durant time and time again, and as the best scorer in the world, he never let them down.
The Golden State Warriors are headed to the NBA Finals for the fourth season in a row, and they’ll meet a Cavaliers team that will have their hands full with a championship on the line. That’s because many, including Cleveland, have tried to finish this Golden State team off. With Durant leading the charge, it just hasn’t been possible.
If these Rockets couldn’t do it, who can?