This series will give us a rematch of last seasons epic seven game Western Conference Finals, but this season it will take place in the second-round of the playoffs, but entertainment-wise, this looks like it should be another very entertaining series as a lot of the pieces that played in the series last year are still in place.
Last season the Rockets of course had the Warriors down 3-2 and then Chris Paul suffered a leg injury that kept him out for the final two games of the series and the Warriors went on to win the final two games of the series and win another NBA title, but a lot of fans contend that if Paul didn’t get hurt the Rockets would have won the series. Now they will have another shot at them and hopefully this time we will be able to see the series to completion without any major injuries.
Expect a lot of offensive fireworks in this series much like whenever these two teams get together. These teams are the top-two teams in the league in offensive rating and they feature some of the most big-time offensive players in the league like Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and of course James Harden.
While these two teams are the top offensive teams in the league, they are also solid on the defensive end of the floor and when they are locked in they are able to play really good defense. Golden State is the third-best team in the league in terms of three-point shooting percentage, but to counteract that Houston is the second-best team in the league in three-point defense this season. On the flip side, Golden State is second-best in the league in defending two-point shots and while Houston takes the fewest two-point shots in the league, they are very efficient, making the third-highest percentage of two-point shots in the league this year.
Over the past two seasons the Rockets have played the Warriors very tough no matter what the teams have been doing going into the game and I expect nothing different in this series. I expect this one to go deep because of that fact and because the Rockets are able to give the Warriors issues with different matchups.
Chris Paul has so much experience and should be able to steady the Houston offense and breakdown the Golden State defense at certain times, but he should also be able to play good defense because he is a very good defender, so if he can make Steph Curry work harder on that end of the floor than usual, it could play a huge factor over the course of the series.
For Golden State, the key defender to me is going to be Klay Thompson. He is the top defender for the Warriors and will more than likely spend the majority of the time guarding James Harden. Harden has his fair share of playoff shortcomings, but he still did average 36.1 points per game this season and is one of the most explosive offensive players in the league. Thompson is going to have to play really disciplined defense on Harden because of how good Harden is at getting whistles and getting to the foul line.
Each team also has a guy that the other team doesn’t really have a matchup for. That would be Durant for the Warriors and Clint Capela for the Rockets. Durant is arguably the most unguardable player in basketball with his ability to just rise and shoot over anyone who is defending him and Capela is so dynamic at being a threat when one of the guards breaks down the defense and the Warriors don’t really have a guy who can keep up with his athleticism.
You’ll probably see a good amount of P.J. Tucker on Durant and Tucker can use his strength to keep Durant further away from the basket, but ultimately Durant will have a huge height advantage on him and I’m not really sure who will guard Capela besides Kevon Looney, but it’s hard to imagine Looney being able to keep up with Capela the whole time and I frankly don’t think Andrew Bogut can keep up with him either.
Draymond Green and Eric Gordon are the biggest x-factors in this series in my opinion. Green is a guy who can do everything on the stat sheet for the Warriors and when he is knocking down shots he is someone who makes the Warriors offense click even more. and as far as Eric Gordon goes, he is one of the top offensive threats in the league that not a lot of people talk about and if he gets hot it takes pressure off of Paul and Harden to have to carry so much of the load offensively.
Neither of these teams is super deep, but Danuel House, Austin Rivers, Gerald Green and Kenneth Faried have given the Rockets some good minutes off the bench so far this postseason, while the main players off the bench for the Warriors in the playoffs have been Kevon Looney and Andre Iguodala.
Make no mistake about it though, the winner of this series is going to come down to which teams stars play better.
Game one: Sunday in Oakland
Game two: Tuesday in Oakland
Game three: Saturday in Houston
Game four: May 6th in Houston
Game five*: May 8th in Oakland
Game six*: May 10th in Houston
Game seven*: May 12th in Oakland
(*) = if necessary
Top Photo: Avila Gonzalez/San Francisco Chronicle