were eliminated again in the playoffs by the defending back-to-back NBA champion Golden State Warriors, 118-113 Friday night. For over 364 days, many across sports and social media were subjected to the excuses given about the Rockets bowing out to the hated Warriors on their very same floor sans Chris Paul and some questionable calls by the refs. What many tend to forget is that while Houston didn’t have Chris Paul, Golden State didn’t have 2015 NBA Finals MVP in swingman Andre Igudolola. That aside, Golden State overcame a 3-2 series deficit to win the last two over the Rockets en route to their second straight title in a sweep over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. While the Rockets may have had a legitimate hypothetical argument over whether or not they would have beaten Golden State last spring, Houston—and their fans—openly and continuously complained and whined about it to the point of it becoming a psychological obsession. Ever hear of the term, “living rent free”? That is what the Warriors were doing inside of the heads of the Rockets and their fandom all offseason long. Fast forward to this season, in which the Rockets beat Golden State three out of four times in the regular season. Both teams had players miss games due to injury, etc. And as we all know, the regular season is just a glorified 82-game warmup for the playoffs. And after Golden State dispatched of the pesky Los Angeles Clippers, and the Houston Rockets disposed of the stubborn Utah Jazz—with an extra day of rest, and already waiting for the Warriors in the Bay—Houston had a golden opportunity to steal Game 1 from the road-weary and jet-lagged Warriors following their Game 6 win down in Los Angeles. And as expected, the Rockets failed to take advantage, as they lost 104-100. If anyone is ever going to look back at this series, it will be best remembered for the lost opportunities squandered by Houston. While Game 1 was bad enough to stomach for the Rockets, Game 5 will best be remembered for What Could Have Been as Durant would suffer his strained right calf injury that caused him to miss the series-clinching Game 6 win down in the Lone Star State. So, if you’re keeping score at home, those are Games, 1, 5 and 6 that Houston could have—or had a chance to win—and they couldn’t close. Not to burrow from the ESPN’s loud-mouthed and very outspoken personality, Stephen A. Smith, but the Rockets have no more excuses, and they will never hear the end of it. The Rockets may want to change their slogan from Clutch City to Choke Town, because that is exactly what they did, and in epic fashion, none the less. And while we’re at it, does this mean that those annoying State Farm commercials with Paul, James Harden and the Rockets mascot, Clutch will now stop? Asking for a friend, sorry not sorry! While all the credit in the world goes to the Warriors for going into a hostile environment to close out a team they’ve owned over the last five seasons without their top player in Durant, starting center in Cousins a less-than-healthy superstar guard in Curry and their oft-maligned bench, Golden State showed why they belong amongst hoops’ G.O.A.T status in finishing off the Rockets on their home floor once again. Curry erupted for 33 points, the ever-reliable Klay Thompson scored 27 and that so-called thin bench of theirs chipped in 33 points. Love them or hate them, Golden State is the closest thing to being invincible. Even when they were perhaps their most vulnerable and in front of their own fans, to borrow from the title of the Sarah Jessica Parker early 2000’s rom-com, the Rockets failed to launch. What’s the excuse this time…oh that’s right there is none. And with another long off-season of questions about why they couldn’t beat Golden State without Durant, Cousins and a compromised Curry, it appears that Houston has another problem that not even Apollo 13 can’t solve.
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)