So Close, Yet So Far Away: The Rockets come up short in their bid for the NBA Finals

Brian Barefield | 6/1/2018, 11:06 a.m.
In high school, I had the opportunity to play against Mike Miller from Willowridge High School that went on to ...
James Harden/Houston Rockets Facebook

In high school, I had the opportunity to play against Mike Miller from Willowridge High School that went on to play college football at Notre Dame and professionally for the Cleveland Browns. Here I was a pretty decent player matched up against an All American. Once the ball was snapped he came towards me with that blazing 4.1 speed and I immediately turned to try and run with him. The ball was thrown high and short. As I jumped, I could tell that I may have misplayed the ball and I was correct. It dropped right over my fingertips and right into Mike’s hands. No need to ask what happened next right? Yes, he scored a touchdown. After he did he came back and uttered an old phrase that I still remember to this day, “so close, yet so far away.”

The Houston Rockets had to have been thinking that exact same thing on Monday night as they watched their season come to an end in game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. After winning 65 games in the regular season (franchise record) and gaining the overall number one seed in the playoffs. The Rockets were defeated at home by the reigning NBA champions, Golden State Warriors, by a score of 101-92.

Houston had to play without future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul who missed the last two games of the series due to a hamstring injury suffered in a game 5 victory for the Rockets. Paul’s leadership was missed during games 6 and 7 as Houston was outscored by the Warriors in the second half by a combined 125 – 63.

“If he was out there, we’d have been playing in game 1 of the NBA Finals,” said backup point guard Eric Gordon who did a very good job of filling in for Paul.

James Harden, who is the front-runner for the 2018 MVP award, gave a very detailed perspective of game 7. “The first half, just our energy defensively was different. That created more 3’s and they went in. Those same opportunities were there in the second half, we just didn’t make them.”

To say that the Rockets were off from three-point range against the Warriors would be an understatement. Houston finished the night shooting 7-44 (15.9%) and at one point missed 27 in a row. No team can win a game with those numbers.

Houston will have to readjust and reevaluate in the off-season in order to duplicate the success it had this year. GM Daryl Morey will have to decide on whether or not to bring back players like Paul, Trevor Ariza, and center Clint Capella. Or create enough cap space to go after the best player in the world, LeBron James.

The Rockets should not hold their heads down on the success they had this season. But most fans have the same phrase running through their heads that I was told over 20 plus years ago.

“So close, yet so far away.”