It was Game 5 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals. Pressure was high for both the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors, with about one minute left on the clock. Houston had possession. The score was close with the Rockets leading the Warriors by a one-point margin of 95-94. Chris Paul brought the ball to the front court. Paul then decided to drive into the lane to get a bucket, but Quinn Cook’s defense was too strong — making him settle for a spin move and a strange floater fadeaway. But unfortunately, after the result of the possession, the terrible shot would seem as if it was a microscopic speck of a problem compared to what would happen next.
As Chris Paul came down after jumping from his strange floater shot immediately started holding his right leg. It was later diagnosed that Paul would be out for the rest of the series with a hamstring injury. Houston ended up winning that game 98-94, and claimed a 3-2 game lead in the series. But unfortunately, this would be their last win of the season, because the Warriors claimed the next two dubs.
Chris Paul averaged 19.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists a game in the five games he played in the series. Not only did the Rockets lose Paul’s numbers when he injured his hamstring, but it also affected other players as well. For instance, James Harden was forced to play the point guard position, when he usually plays guard. This caused him to more of a focus on running the court, while attempting to shoot more shots — all compensating for Chris Paul. But unfortunately, despite his incredible numbers in the final two games, Harden couldn’t win the games alone.
This situation has prompted debate by many basketball fans: Would’ve the Warriors beaten the Rockets if they would’ve had Chris Paul?
I don’t believe they would have. And here’s why:
One of the only ways of analyzing the impact of Paul’s unfortunate dismissal from the Rockets’ lineup in the series is by adding his numbers to the final score. If one were to do that to Game 6, the Warriors would have still come on top. There were a variety of factors that influenced Golden State to win that game — primarily that Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were money all night (combining for 64), and that the game was held in Oracle Arena, the Warriors’ home court (at the time). However, Game 7 was a bit different.
If in Game 7 one was to add Paul’s points to the Final score, the Rockets would have come out on top 111-101. But unfortunately for Houston, that wasn’t the case and Paul was still injured. The final score of the game was 101-92. And they were even in the Toyota Center, the Rockets’ home court! If Chris Paul wasn’t injured, it is pretty apparent that the Rockets would have most-likely won that series.
And since Houston was competing at the level of Golden State throughout the whole series, they probably would have won the NBA Finals too (just like the Warriors did) — in the hypothetical situation that Chris Paul didn’t get injured.
These unfortunate injuries in sports are truly devastating. They ruin the whole competitive model of sports. Teams can’t play at their highest level, meaning that teams don’t win games at their highest level of competition. These injuries also make many sports journalists write long ranting articles about why they believe that the team that lost should have won.