Warriors Vs Rockets – The Ultimate Preview

Photo Credit: Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle

Warriors Vs Rockets – The Ultimate Preview

 

It what the NBA has been wanting all season, a Conference heavyweight matchup between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets. Widely regarded as the two best teams in the association, these Western Conference Finals could turn out to be the true NBA Finals when we look back at this campaign. It has all the makings of an all-time series, so let’s dive into what factors will determine the winner of this series.

 

  1. THE THREE-POINT SHOT.

 

This one of the more obvious but massively important aspects of this series – who will thrive more from beyond the arc. This aspect of playoff series has transformed into more of a factor with each passing season, but the three-point line has never been this important for a series and potential NBA champion in recent memory. This is because both teams have predicated nearly their entire offense on their ability to stretch the floor and shoot the ball. The Rockets take and make the most threes in the association, whilst the Warriors have three of the greatest three-point shooters of all-time in Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. The battle from downtown will be epic, and most of the games could simply come down to who is hot from the outside. The most interesting thing is both teams take and make a lot of threes, but go about it in different ways. The Warriors ball movement and slashing enables them to get wide open from deep, whereas the Rockets rely heavily on the penetration and “drive and kick” game of James Harden and Chris Paul. The Rockets possess more flat out shooters than the Warriors, but often, the Warriors looks from beyond the arc are better due to their ball movement and ability to create space for others. It will definitely be a run-and-gun type of series, with the highest calibre three-point specialists on show. The Rockets live and die by the three which can potentially be their downfall if they’re not hitting, whereas the Warriors have a little more variety in their offense. One thing is for sure, the three point line will swing the balance of power to either team throughout the series.

 

  1. THE BATTLE OF THE BACK-COURTS.

 

This series is going to be EPIC with the star studded back courts from each franchise. The matchup between James Harden and Chris Paul facing Steph Curry and Klay Thompson is nothing short of salivating. It’s likely that Thompson will guard Harden and Paul will guard Steph Curry on their respective sides of the ball which makes this back court duel even more enticing. For me, whichever back-court produces more consistently will give their franchise the best chance to win this series. It will be up to Thompson to try and slow Harden down on the offensive end, a task that is definitely easier said than done. Thompson is a very good defender at the guard position with his size but it will take a team effort to try and control the offensive machine that is the beard. In terms of the Paul-Curry matchup, “CP3” has been a consistently brilliant defender throughout his career, and this matchup will require every bit of his defensive intelligence as he tries to maintain the production of Curry. The back courts will go a long way in deciding who is crowned Western Conference Champions.

 

  1. CLINT CAPELA COULD BE THE DIFFERENCE.

 

Who would have thought Clint Capela would be this good this season. He has transformed into undoubtedly one of the best big men in the league this season, going from strength to strength and playing his role perfectly for a team with the best record in the association. With the ascendance of Capela, he may have provided the Rockets with a point of difference that could be crucial in this series. Capela isn’t the type of player to throw to in the post and watch him go to work just yet, but his ability to roll to the rim allows both Harden and Paul to penetrate the lane and keep the Warriors defenders thinking. With Capela’s dominance on the defensive end also, the Rockets have a genuine rim protector that the Warriors aren’t necessarily accustomed to dealing with at this stage. Capela’s presence also has a ripple effect for the Warriors, who will now likely be forced to play Javle McGee extended minutes to match his athleticism and length, which they don’t necessarily want to do because they are forced to go a little bigger and put a player who isn’t really a scoring threat on the floor. If Capela’s production remains as high as we’ve seen it this season, the Rockets could hold a massive advantage inside the paint.

 

  1. SECOND UNITS.

 

In what promises to be such a high scoring series, both second units will have to be excellent in order for their franchise to win games. The points need to continue to be put on the board even when the superstars get their rest. At this point, on paper the Rockets have a better and deeper bench which allows them to continue with their playing style no matter who is out there. Chris Paul and James Harden will very rarely sit at the same time which enables the Rockets’ offense to continue to flow. With their deeper bench, the Rockets also become more versatile. Players like Joe Johnson haven’t seen minutes, but could be a valuable asset off the bench if they need a different look, genuine scorer or different matchup for Kevin Durant. The Warriors bench isn’t bad by any stretch, but it’s mostly made up of veterans who help them in limited minutes. We have to keep in mind that the stars from each franchise will play heavy minutes with the potential of an NBA Finals awaiting them, but both teams’ second units will need to give them the push they need to get over the line.

 

  1. HOME COURT DOESN’T REALLY MATTER.

 

Like I’ve always said, if you’re a true championship contender in the NBA, you need to have the ability to win on the road. Despite the Rockets desiring the number one seed this season, having home court advantage won’t matter all that much, especially against this Warriors team who has no problem with winning games on the road with their talent. Of course it is more difficult and you love the roar from your own home crowd, but with the talent the Warriors possess, they’re more comfortable with winning on the road than most. This doesn’t mean the Rockets can’t win on the road either, because I think they absolutely can as well, but more importantly, I believe each game will be won on its own merit and not the ability to be on your home floor. It’s very likely we will see both teams win games on the road in this series.

 

  1. CAN THE ROCKETS NEUTRALISE DRAYMOND GREEN?

 

Let me jog your memory for a second all the way back to the 2016 Western Conference Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder. If you can recall in that series, the Thunder had a 3-1 series advantage before the Warriors stormed back to take the series. In that series, the Thunder (who had Kevin Durant at that time) and the Cavaliers the series after are the only teams I’ve seen neutralise the influence of Warriors’ playmaker Draymond Green. The Cavs used LeBron James, and the Thunder used Kevin Durant, and by doing so, significantly changed the Warriors offense and flow. Green may be the least talented future hall of famer for the Warriors but his influence, defense, impact and playmaking makes them truly great. When you can put a player to matchup on Green that can completely take him out of what he wants to do offensively, and makes him really work on the defensive end can change the entire outcome a series against the Warriors. These players are hard to come by (I mean, I just said Kevin Durant and LeBron James were the only ones that did it effectively) and even in one of those cases, the Warriors still found a way over the Thunder. This is key and such an underrated aspect when facing the Warriors that teams and coaching staffs tend to neglect because of the other superstar talent they possess, but it might be the most vital in the grand scheme of things. There’s not a Rocket’s player that can fill this role right now that we’ve seen, but if they can hone in on limiting Green’s impact, it may even the balance of this entire series for them.

 

  1. NO LEGITMATE MATCHUP FOR KEVIN DURANT.

 

We’ve discussed the intense back-court matchup, but this point is why I give the Warriors the ultimate edge in this series. I believe they don’t have a player who can realistically and legitimately slow down Kevin Durant in their front court. This doesn’t mean just making life tough for him, but making him work on the defensive end and expend large amounts of energy there as well. Now, these players are very few and far between, I mean, the LeBron James’ and Kawhi Lenoard’s of the world are hard to come by, but these are the sorts of superstars you need to overcome such a juggernaut NBA team riddled with future hall of famers. The back courts could most likely cancel each other out, but the Rocket’s inability to deal with Kevin Durant I believe will be the eventual downfall for them. They have brilliant individual defenders in PJ Tucker and Trevor Ariza to matchup with him, but on the other end of the floor their purely spot up shooters, who will rarely make him expend large amounts of energy guarding them leaving him fresh to do whatever he wants offensively. This is crucial because with all great players, you have to make them accountable. You have to try and decrease their production in every facet of the game. With Durant, I feel it’s just one too many all-stars the Rockets have to match up with in the hopes of winning this series. If they had the likes of LeBron, Kawhi or even a Paul George we would be having a different conversation, but they don’t have a player of that calibre in their front court right now.

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