2. Chris Paul doesn’t get injured in 2018 WCF
Heading into the 2017-18 season, many questioned whether the Houston Rockets would be able to succeed with two ball-dominant players such as Chris Paul and James Harden in the same backcourt. The Rockets certainly silenced the skeptics, as they posted a 65-17 record, which was not only a franchise-record but was also the best record in the league that season.
This led many Houston Rockets fans wondering if that was finally the year the Rockets would eliminate the Golden State Warriors and cruise to an NBA title. The Rockets’ first test came against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who were then coached by former Houston Rockets assistant coach Tom Thibodeau.
The Rockets blew right through the Jimmy Butler and Karl Anthony-Towns duo, which led to a second round playoff matchup against Quin Snyder and the Utah Jazz. The tandem of Harden and CP3 proved to be too much for the Jazz, as the Rockets ultimately defeated them within five games. During the final game of that series, CP3 was lights out, as he had 41 points while posting a true shooting percentage of 80.3 percent. In addition, he shot 80% from downtown in that game.
The Rockets would advance to face the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, which was a matchup the basketball world had been looking forward to. The matchup lived up to its expectations, as the series was tied 2-2 heading into Game 5.
This game certainly lived upto the hype, as the Rockets were leading 95-94 with 51.8 seconds remaining when CP3 attempted a floater following a spin move on then Warriors guard Quinn Cook. Paul missed the shot and suffered an injury upon landing, which left Rockets fans in silence.
The Rockets would go on to win Game 5 by a score of 98-94, but the bigger loss was CP3, who was unable to return to play in the remaining two games. As we all know, the Rockets ended up losing the series, due in large part to a consecutive 27 missed 3-pointers in Game 7, which CP3 could certainly have helped with.
CP3 wasn’t the same player during the 2018-19 season and the Rockets didn’t make it as far during the 2019 playoffs. The Houston Rockets pulled the plug on the CP3 experiment prior to the start of the 2019-20 season, as he was sent packing for Russell Westbrook.
The Rockets’ best title chance of late was during CP3’s first season in the Space City, and it seems they would have defeated the Warriors if Paul was healthy enough to play in either of the final two games. But we’ll never what would have happened if CP3 was healthy, but the Rockets were that close to defeating the Dubs prior to his injury.
We all know what happened during the next season, which ended up being the final year of the CP3/Harden era. In spite of Harden’s historical scoring streak, the Rockets weren’t able to withstand CP3’s regression. They landed a rematch against the Warriors, but this time it was in the Western Conference Semifinals, and CP3 wasn’t the same player.
In fact, CP3 was the Rockets’ third-leading scorer of that series, and was traded in the offseason, as the Rockets ultimately punted on the CP3/Harden pairing. We’ll never know what would’ve happened if he stayed healthy, but it’s a safe bet that they would have won their third NBA title in franchise history, would would have been the first for Harden and CP3.
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