The Rockets' heartbreaking failure to launch

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Their superstar pair of playmakers fit together phenomenally as James Harden and Chris Paul shared the reins of one of the most potent offenses in NBA history. Paul had no problems sliding into a co-star role after deciding to leave the LA Clippers to come to Houston. Harden had the best year of his career and will almost certainly be awarded with his first MVP trophy.

Center Clint Capela, who turned 24 this month, continued to blossom into the third star the Rockets needed to be a real title threat. He has become one of the NBA's best finishers, leading the league in field goal percentage (.652). He's an elite rebounder (10.8 per game). custom nfl jerseys cheap And his ability to both protect the rim (1.9 blocks per game) and defend on the perimeter is a crucial element to the Rockets' drastically improved defense.327

Forward PJ Tucker, whose four-year, $32 million deal signed last summer looks like a bargain, has in some ways emerged as the Rockets' soul. He's the snarling face of the Rockets' switch-everything defensive scheme that helped Houston soar from 18th a year ago to sixth this season in the league's defensive efficiency rankings. The Rockets became a good enough defensive team to be a threat to the Golden State Warriors as soon as they signed Tucker.

The Rockets proved themselves right. They were good enough to win a championship.

However, with the Rockets a win away from knocking out the Warriors, the Rockets received a cruel twist of fate when Paul suffered a Grade 2 strain of his right hamstring. You will never be able to convince anyone in the Houston locker room that they wouldn't have headed to the NBA Finals with a healthy Paul.

"If we just one had more playmaker, we'd be playing on Thursday [in the Finals]," Houston guard Eric Gordon said. "It's that simple."

It's a "woulda, coulda, shoulda" that will haunt Houston perhaps forever, cheap nfl jerseys from china or at least until the Rockets celebrate the franchise's first title since the Clutch City days more than two decades ago.

But the Rockets have no question that they've found a championship-caliber formula with two future Hall of Fame playmakers, a high-rising big man who complements them perfectly and role players who fit like perfect puzzle pieces.

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