The 2018 Western Conference Finals was a series NBA fans and specifically, Houston Rockets fans won’t soon forget. As James Harden, Chris Paul and the Rockets held a 3-2 lead entering Game 6 on the road, it seemed as though they were poised to advance to their first NBA Finals since the 1994-95 season.
Unfortunately, an injury to point guard Chris Paul derailed things a bit. The nine-time NBA All-Star missed Game 7 of the series on Houston’s home floor due to a strained hamstring. There was plenty of chatter about whether the Rockets would have won that game had Paul played, and the team’s player development coach offered a strong opinion during a recent interview.
Rockets assistant Irv Roland spoke to Brandon Robinson on the Scoop B Radio Podcast recently and answered the question honestly.
Brandon Robinson: If Chris Paul didn’t sit out Game 7 would you guys have won the Western Conference Finals?
Irv Roland: “Chris Paul doesn’t play, we miss 27 straight threes. I’ve never seen you play basketball, but I would bet that if I put you on the basketball court, you’re going to make at least one of those 27. That just doesn’t happen, especially for a team like ours. All that said, we only lose by nine. You put Chris Paul on the floor, I’d have to venture off to say that we win that basketball game.”
It’s hard to argue with his point, especially considering the Rockets lost Game 7 by just nine, although they were outscored 33-15 in the third quarter. Houston wrapped up the game 7-of-44 from behind the arc, an area where they thrived during the season, making a league-high 1,256 three-pointers (215 more than the No. 2 team).
As we know, the Warriors went on to win the championship and left the Rockets and league MVP James Harden one game away from a chance at the NBA Finals. Both teams are once again expected to be near the top of the Western Conference this coming season, and a rematch seems like a very real possibility.