OAKLAND, Calif. — An enormous smile broke out on Clint Capela’s face as he was being requested a query concerning the which means of the Houston Rockets’ clinching the regular-season collection in opposition to the Golden State Warriors.
Capela deliberately wasn’t practically as daring as he was below comparable circumstances final season, when he declared to ESPN that the Rockets had been the higher crew. He settled with expressing confidence with out uttering any phrases that would find yourself on bulletin boards within the two-time defending champions’ locker room.
“We have now a crew that has a variety of potential,” Capela mentioned after the Rockets pulled off a 118-112 win on Saturday at Oracle Enviornment, regardless of reigning MVP James Harden’s absence on account of flu-like signs and a cervical pressure in his neck. “We have now a variety of guys which can be able to a variety of issues defensively and offensively.
Rockets guard James Harden was fined $25,000, the NBA introduced Saturday, for publicly criticizing referee Scott Foster following Houston’s loss to the Lakers on Thursday.
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“Clearly, it is simply the common season. I am not going to get fired up like final yr. I am simply going to remain targeted on one sport at a time and interested by the playoffs as a result of everyone knows within the playoffs it is a completely different ambiance.”
The Rockets have gained all three conferences with the Warriors this season. They gained with out Chris Paul of their first go to to Oracle Enviornment and with out Harden on this event. They will have an opportunity to finish the regular-season sweep March 13 in Houston.
This comes on the heels of Houston pushing Golden State to seven video games in final season’s Western Convention semifinals, a outcome many throughout the Rockets group discuss with as being “a hamstring away from a championship,” after the Rockets constructed a Three-2 collection lead earlier than Paul went down with a strained hamstring.
The Rockets have each proper to imagine they will beat the Warriors in a playoff collection. But they’re nicely conscious meaning nothing except they show it within the postseason.
“I actually imagine that we’re their hardest opponent,” mentioned guard Eric Gordon, who led the Rockets with 25 factors. “We have to proceed enjoying, attempting to be a championship crew. They know who they’re. That is one other sport for them, however it is a particular night time for us.”
The night time began with the Rockets leaping to a 15-Zero lead, pouncing on a Golden State crew that was maybe lulled to sleep with Harden remaining on the crew resort. Houston’s lead ballooned to as many as 20 factors, and the Rockets withstood a Warriors rally earlier than closing out the sport, guided by the regular hand of Paul, who completed with 23 factors and a season-high 17 assists.
However there was a subdued temper, not a celebration, within the guests’ locker room. It has been a rocky season for the Rockets, who entered the season with a championship-or-bust mentality, solely to dig themselves an enormous gap with a gradual begin.
Houston (34-25, fifth within the West) has an excessive amount of work left to do to get too excited a couple of win over the Warriors, even with out Harden, whose historic streak of 32 consecutive 30-plus-point performances was placed on maintain.
“Do not make an excessive amount of of it. It is a good win,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni mentioned. “We performed nicely. They did not play as nicely. Particularly within the first half, they did not play excellent. They won’t have seen Harden and gone, ‘Oh.’ Typically you’ve got a letdown. There’s every kind of causes, however all we all know is we go on to the subsequent one.”
The Rockets’ regular-season success in opposition to the Warriors means “nothing,” in keeping with Paul.
“You may are available in right here and win on a Monday night time in February or a Tuesday night time in November or December, however within the playoffs, it is when you have to beat a crew 4 out of seven occasions,” Paul mentioned. “It is nice we gained tonight, however in two days, you may overlook this. All of us will.”