“All our doctors are with us,” D’Antoni said, explaining why Paul traveled for Game 6 after he had been ruled out.
“He can get the same type of treatment,” D’Antoni said. “Plus he doesn’t want to miss this. He’s worked his whole career to be here. He’s very responsible for us getting here, so he needs to be here.”
D’Antoni acknowledged that Paul is “devastated” by the setback and described the rest of the Rockets as “devastated for him.” Paul began this postseason as the league’s career leader in playoff games without making a trip to the conference finals; in the words of Warriors Coach Steve Kerr, he “pretty much willed” Houston to victory in Games 4 and 5.
“More than anything, I feel bad for Chris,” Kerr said. “He’s just been haunted by these types of injuries in his career. And it’s a shame.”
Without Paul, D’Antoni inserted Eric Gordon into the starting lineup and brought the ailing forward Luc Mbah a Moute back into the rotation. Gordon responded by making his first four 3-pointers and scoring a rugged 19 points, while Harden — who entered Game 6 having missed 20 consecutive 3-pointers — totaled 32 points after missing his first two shots from long range.
But Houston gradually faded, with D’Antoni using only seven players until its deficit reached 20 points. The Warriors scored the first 11 points of the second half to climb out of a 61-51 hole and had seized an 84-77 lead entering the fourth quarter — helped along by Gordon’s missing three free throws.
The Warriors were also short-handed, with Andre Iguodala, the most valuable player in the 2015 N.B.A. finals, missing his third successive game with a lower leg contusion. Sympathy for Golden State’s plight is likely to be scarce, given Paul’s absence for Houston, but Golden State has clearly missed Iguodala’s settling nature and passing instincts against Houston’s unrelenting physicality.
Outplayed for much of the series by Gordon, Thompson answered when the Warriors needed him most. Of the team’s four All-Stars, he gets the least attention, but Thompson delivered a performance reminiscent of his heroics in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals in 2016, when he scored 41 points with Golden State facing elimination against an Oklahoma City team featuring Durant.