AP Photo/Ben MargotHouston Rockets guard James Harden (13) and center Clint Capela (15) try to get to a loose ball over Golden State Warriors center Festus Ezeli during the first half of Game 5 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals in Oakland

Balls: Warriors coaches defuse blasted Rockets

Houston Rockets loose cannon James Harden was so bad in the final game of the Western Conference finals, Stephen Curry's little kid was tempted to tear up the boxscore at the postgame news conference.

Harden gave new meaning to the triple-double — 14 points, 13 turnovers, 12 missed shots — and for that, the Warriors' assistant coaches can take a bow. Because Ron Adams and Alvin Gentry were the unsung heroes of the series that sent their team to the NBA Finals for the first time in a long, long time.

The Warriors scouted Harden so throughly, they practically knew every hair in his beard. They gave him so many different looks, he didn't know what to think. “I know he has something up his sleeve,” Harden said of Adams earlier in the series.

The Warriors often were one step ahead of Harden off the dribble, which reduced his number of drives to the basket. And when Harden can't take the ball to the hoop, he doesn't get free throws, which account for about one-third of his point total.

“The biggest thing in the series was to keep him off the foul line and prevent those 3-point shots,” Adams told Balls. “We did a good job at that. When we didn't turn the ball over, he had to go throughout our half court defense, which made him less dangerous. We were pretty aware of where he was on the floor and aggressive in our coverage.”

REST OF THE STORY: If the Cleveland Cavaliers hadn't hired David Blatt to be their head coach, one has to wonder if the Warriors would have made it this far.

As you might recall, the Warriors were set to sign Blatt as their offensive coordinator last summer. But when Blatt was offered the head position, Gentry was hired instead. Blatt has been in over his head in his NBA debut — he nearly blew one crucial playoff game when lost track of the timeouts in the final minute — while Gentry has been invaluable as Kerr's right-hand man. Now the Cavaliers and the Warriors will meet in the NBA Finals.

Strange how this works out sometimes.

BEAT IT, CHUMP: Rockets little man Dwight Howard couldn't resist the chance to absolve himself of any blame for the loss.

“I'm going to continue to push myself to the limit and remember that, no matter how the season ends, I'm still a champion,” Howard actually said. “And I won't let anyone tell me anything different.”

To be a champion, you have to win a champion-ship, something that Howard has yet to accomplish in his NBA career. And Balls doesn't mean the 2004 Georgia state championship, the only title the guy has ever won in his life.

GUILT BY ASSOCIATION: It's easy to feel for Cleveland fans who have waited 51 years for a championship of any significance, but nobody deserves one less than Dan Gilbert, the goofball Cavaliers owner.

Gilbert referred to LeBron James as a coward and a two-timer after the King up and left his hometown after the 2009-10 season. The move prompted Gilbert to forward a mindless open letter to Cavaliers fans, the highlight of which was this:

“You simply don't deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal.

“You have given so much an deserve so much more.

“In the meantime, I want to make one statement to you tonight: 'I personally guarantee that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA championship before the self-titled former 'King' wins one.

“You can take it to the bank.”

After James led the Miami Heat to back-to-back league titles, Gilbert welcomed him back with open arms. Now he takes even more money the bank, just another reason to root against his team in the series.

AND ANOTHER THING: LeBron is the greatest all-around force in basketball today. Has been for years now.

But let's not forget that James is the same guy who treated Cleveland like an all-day sucker in The Decision five years ago, when he announced that he would take his talents to South Beach, as he so arrogantly put it on national television, no less. Balls had no problem with the move from a career standpoint, but the selfish, immature manner in which he did it was unforgivable.

Last summer, James bolted from Miami without so much as a phone call to Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley, the two people most responsible for the championship rings on his fingers.

James and Gilbert deserve one another.

THE LIST: Fun facts from 1975, the last previous year that the Warriors were Western Conference champs:

President: Gerald Ford

Fads: mood rings, pet rocks, Rubik's Cubes, 8-track tapes

Top stories: The Vietnam war ends, Jimmy Hoffa disappears

Top movies: “Jaws,” “Dog Day Afternoon”

Top song: “Love Will Keep Us Together” (Captain and Tennille)

Top television show: “All in the Family”

Unemployment: 5.6 percent


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Balls: Paul LadewskiHouston RocketsJames HardenStephen Curry

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