The Rockets lost more than a playoff series. Their title window has closed

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Golden State beat Houston, 118-113, in Friday night’s Game 6 of the Western Conferences semi-finals, viewed by many as the de facto NBA finals.

For the third straight year, the Warriors closed the books on a Rockets title bid. And they did so without Kevin Durant, the current holder of the best-on-earth moniker. The often contentious series seemed to have swung Houston’s way in Game 5, despite the Warriors taking a 3-2 series lead. Durant went down with a calf strain that ruled him out of the rest of the series and perhaps beyond.

What had been previewed as a battle of two contrasting styles – the Warriors melodic ball movement v the Rockets staccato offense – had been misguided. Much of the Warriors offense through these playoffs have resulted in a late shot clock plea. Hey, Durant. Save us.

The Durant-void loomed large over the series. Either we would see the old-school, pre-Durant Warriors: more fluidity on offense, the splash brothers – Steph Curry and Klay Thompson – shooting from anywhere and everywhere. Or, without Durant to bail them out, the Warriors would finally bog down, weighed down by years of playoff attrition.

This was Houston’s best shot yet. The basketball Gods had finally shone some good fortune their way. This was supposed their year.

Curry was a mess in the first half of Game 6. He played only 12 minutes, picking up three fouls and missing all five of his shots. No Durant, no Curry. And yet the Rockets went in tied up at the half. The onus fell on Klay Thompson to save the Warriors.

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