Rockets outlast Warriors 98-94, edge closer to NBA Finals

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Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets goes up against Quinn Cook #4 of the Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter of Game Five of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 24, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Bob Levey/Getty Images/AFP)
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Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors shoots against PJ Tucker #4 of the Houston Rockets in the second half of Game Five of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 24, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Bob Levey/Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 25 May 2018

Rockets outlast Warriors 98-94, edge closer to NBA Finals

  • The Rockets head into Game 6 on Saturday night in Oakland one win away from knocking off the defending champions and advancing to the NBA Finals.
  • After Game 6 on Saturday, the Rockets would host Game 7 on Monday if necessary.

HOUSTON, Texas: Eric Gordon came off the bench to score 24 points and his steal on Golden State’s last possession secured a 98-94 victory Thursday night that gave the Houston Rockets a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.
The Rockets head into Game 6 on Saturday night in Oakland one win away from knocking off the defending champions and advancing to the NBA Finals for the first time since winning back-to-back titles in 1994-95.
Chris Paul scored 20 points and James Harden struggled for his 19, but Paul had to leave the game in the final minute with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.
Kevin Durant scored 29 points for the Warriors, who lost in Game 5 of a playoff series for just the second time since 2015.
The Rockets won a second straight defensive struggle between the two potent offenses, leaving the Warriors a loss from missing the NBA Finals for the first time since 2014.
“We had to rely on our defense once again,” Harden said. “Game 4, we weren’t making shots but defensively we were really good. Same thing tonight.”
Draymond Green made a 3-pointer with just over minute left to get Golden State within one. Harden, who was 0 for 11 on 3s, missed his last one with less than 30 seconds left, giving the Warriors the ball back.
Stephen Curry missed a floater and Trevor Ariza grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 10 seconds left. But he made just one of two free throws to give the Warriors another chance.
But Gordon came up with his steal when Green lost control in the lane and added two free throws with 2.4 seconds left to put it away.
Klay Thompson shook off a knee injury that had his status for this game in question to score 23 points and Curry added 22. A bruised left knee kept Andre Iguodala out for the second straight game, and Kevon Looney started in his place.
After losing Game 1 of the series, the Rockets made the best of home-court advantage this time, thrilling a sellout crowd that included Justin Timberlake, Houston Texans star J.J. Watt and rapper Travis Scott.
It’s Houston’s second straight win in the series after snapping Golden State’s NBA playoff-record, 16-game home winning streak with a 95-92 victory on Tuesday night.
Golden State led by one to start the fourth before Paul got going, scoring seven points to power a 10-5 run that gave the Rockets an 81-77 lead with about 9 1/2 minutes left.
Thompson made a 3-pointer after that and then officials reviewed Paul’s first basket of the quarter and ruled he got it off after the shot clock expired, leaving the Warriors ahead 80-79.
The Rockets were clinging to a one-point lead with about seven minutes left when Durant fouled Gordon on a 3-point attempt, losing one of his shoes in the process. Gordon made all three free throws to start a 7-2 spurt that extended the lead to 88-82 midway through the quarter.
The Rockets honored the 10 people killed in last week’s school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, before the game, with the school’s choir singing the national anthem and team owner Tilman Fertitta wearing a “Santa Fe Strong” T-shirt, before Houston scored the game’s first six points in a first half where the team led by as many as 11.

TIP-INS
Warriors: Coach Steve Kerr was unsure Thursday if Iguodala would be able to return for Game 6. “He’s dying to play, but he’s not healthy enough,” Kerr said. “We’ll just continue to take it day to day..”.. Curry made four free throws to tie Rick Barry for most free throws made in the playoffs in franchise history with 378. ... Golden State had 18 turnovers.
Rockets: Clint Capela had 12 points and 14 rebounds for his seventh double-double this postseason. ... Houston made 13 of 43 3-pointers, led by four from Gordon.

UP NEXT
After Game 6 on Saturday, the Rockets would host Game 7 on Monday if necessary.


Djokovic not worried about blisters ahead of US Open

Updated 25 August 2019

Djokovic not worried about blisters ahead of US Open

  • When the year's last Grand Slam tournament begins Monday, Djokovic will be in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the afternoon session, facing Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain

NEW YORK: During a break in practice two days before opening his US Open title defense, Novak Djokovic pulled off his blue shoe and white sock so a trainer could look at his right foot.

Did it again a little while later.

And then, toward the end of Saturday’s training session in Louis Armstrong Stadium with 2014 runner-up Kei Nishikori, Djokovic stopped a sprint and pulled up short of a ball, raised his right leg off the ground entirely and hopped repeatedly on his left, wincing. Nothing to worry about, Djokovic said later at his pre-tournament news conference: Just blisters.

“A minor thing,” Djokovic called it. “Like anybody has ... Nothing major that is causing a concern for the event.”

When the year's last Grand Slam tournament begins Monday, Djokovic will be in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the afternoon session, facing Roberto Carballes Baena, a 26-year-old from Spain whose career-best ranking was 72nd.

Carballes Baena has an overall career record of 43-50. That includes 2-7 at major tournaments, 1-1 at Flushing Meadows, where he made his debut a year ago and lost in the second round.

Djokovic, meanwhile, has won 33 of his past 34 Grand Slam matches en route to collecting four of the past five major titles. That allowed the 32-year-old Serb to raise his career haul to 16 trophies, putting him just two away from second-place Rafael Nadal’s total of 18, and Roger Federer’s 20, which is the record for men.

He’s not shy about trying to catch those guys.

“More or less everything is about Grand Slams, in terms of how I see tennis and how I approach it, because they matter the most,” Djokovic said. “So I will definitely try to play my best tennis — and aim to play my best tennis — at these events.”

And while many would attribute Djokovic's success to his ability to return serves, say, or his mental strength and propensity for coming up big in the biggest moments — such as saving two match points along the way to edging Federer in a fifth-set tiebreaker in the Wimbledon final last month — there's something else the man himself would point to as his most vital quality.

That's the way Djokovic can cover a court, which is why the state of that right foot is actually a rather big deal.

His movement, Djokovic said Saturday, is "the base of everything" and "the most important thing."

"It just allows you to be more in balance. And at the end of the day, that is what you're looking for as a tennis player," he explained. "How can you hit the ball, being in the right balance, so you can penetrate the ball with the right speed, accuracy and precision?"

Watch Djokovic during a match, and you'll see him change direction in a heartbeat, twist and turn, contort his limbs, slide — on clay, on grass, even on hard courts — always getting to the right spot at the right time.

He attributes his strength in that area to the flexibility of his ankles and is grateful he used to participate in another sport while growing up back home in Serbia.

"I credit my childhood spent on the skis. I used to spend a lot of time skiing," Djokovic said. "That had an effect as well, with kind of coordination and changing movement from one side to another. Even though they're different sports, in essence, you're using some major muscle groups and joints and stuff like this in most of the sports."

It is Djokovic's right elbow that gave him the most trouble a couple of seasons ago.

He missed the last half of 2017, including that year's US Open because that arm was bothering him, then wound up having surgery in February 2018. It took some time for Djokovic to get going after that. All's good these days, though.

"Novak had a couple years where he didn't seem like the same guy," ESPN's John McEnroe said. "Now he's back with a vengeance."

Only 1½ months have passed since Djokovic edged Federer in that classic title match at the All England Club.

Not a lot of time to savor the victory. Not a lot of time to rest a weary body.

"This sport can be a little bit 'cruel,'" Djokovic said, using fingers to indicate air quotes, "when it comes to, I guess, marveling or celebrating your own success. You don't have that much luxury of time to really reflect on everything because the season keeps going."