The Western Conference Finals between the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors are set to start this Monday, as we are in for a treat.
The top 2 seeds in the West dominated the NBA this season as the 2 teams with the best records in the whole NBA, and as that were the clear cut favorites to meet deep into the playoffs. The Rockets dominated the regular season and continued that trend in the playoffs so far, while on the other side the Warriors were sort of cruising through the regular season, but in the playoffs, they raised their game on another level and are showing why they are the defending champs. Will Houston live up to their #1 seed status or will we see Golden State in their 4th straight finals?
In the regular season, these two teams faced off in 3 exciting games, with the Rockets winning the season series 2-1, including beating them on opening night in the Oracle Arena. Chris Paul especially seemed to step up in those games, with a few role players for Houston having big impacts
Houston’s general manager Daryl Morey has been very determined on building a team specially constructed to take down the Warriors, as he said that his team is obsessed with beating the Warriors and that it is the only thing they think about. To be fair his plan so far has been successful as they are now in a position to finally knock them off.
The Rockets started off by trading for Chris Paul and creating a new star duo in the NBA, knowing they need one more superstar to pair up with James Harden. And exactly those two guys are the key in this series. Harden has to play at an MVP level like he has been all season and Chris Paul has to repeat what he did in the regular season against the Warriors, being aggressive and controlling the pace of the game on both sides of the floor. The second major key for them is finding that constant third scoring option to match up with all the scoring power on the Warriors. Their best hope is Eric Gordon getting out of his playoff shooting slump or utilizing Clint Capela by feeding him in the post and punishing the Warriors if they go small. Also, a big factor will be the role players and the bench. The Rockets have a small advantage by having an extended rotation consisting of specialty glue guys on the defensive end like PJ Tucker and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and guys that can erupt on any given night like Gerald Green, Joe Johnson, Ryan Anderson or Trevor Ariza.
On the other side, the Warriors seemed to be slowing down near the end of the season, but they absolutely dismantled those statements in the first two rounds dominating the Spurs without Curry and beating the red hot Pelicans without much trouble. The main question mark for this team was will Stephen Curry be healthy in time and if he will have enough time to get his flow. Luckily for the Warriors, Curry showed no signs of rust, scoring 28 points in 27 minutes in his comeback game. Kevin Durant has been on his game so far, playing like one of the best players in the league, while Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have each continued to play on their level. They are playing great team basketball, starting on the defensive end and turning it into easy fast-break points by sharing the ball and creating easy shots for everyone. The only disadvantages they have are not having a constant starting lineup, with Steve Kerr experimenting a lot, playing without a classic center. Also although they have a solid supporting cast around their 4 all-stars being led by Andre Igoudala, you could argue that the Rockets have more depth as that could play a crucial part, especially with Houston having home-court advantage, because it is known that role players almost always have better games on their home court.
These two teams have a lot of playoff experience and two well-respected coaches who each are specialists in their own domain of work, which will make this a game of details in which both teams are equally capable to prevail and advance to the finals. All in all, we have a great series ahead of us.