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Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors: Regular Season Matchup Preview

The Houston Rockets are 6-0 to start the season, and it's been a beautiful thing to watch. The boys in red are playing in a historically loaded Western Conference, filled with 11 (well, maybe 12 if Sacramento can keep it going) quality teams, all of which that would vie for home court in the Eastern Conference. The Rockets play 38 games against these teams. I'll be breaking down how they match up with each of these squads. Next up, the also-unbeaten Golden State Warriors.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Last season's Results: Houston won series, 2-1

Dec. 6: 105-83 Rockets

Dec. 13: 116-112 Rockets

Feb. 20: 102-99 Warriors (OT)

What's new in Golden State

The Golden State Warriors headed into the 2014-15 season looking very similar to last year's squad. Once again, the team was flaunting a gunslinging backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, a pair of defensive stalwarts in Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut, and a power forward that gives all us white ballers someone to be proud of, David Lee.

The Warriors lost Jermaine O'Neal in the offseason, who played a vital role for Mark Jackson last year, especially after Bogut went down (for his yearly season-ending injury). Once again, Golden State will be banking on big contributions from a bunch of low-level, frontcourt backups in Marreese Speights (who has that really weird thing growing on the top of his head) and Festus Ezeli, who missed all of last season with a knee injury and is currently banged up again.

Despite a paper-thin frontcourt, the Warriors did improve this summer. The team brought in Shaun Livingston, who, at 6'7", will fill the Jarrett Jack role from two years ago, allowing Curry and Thompson to simultaneously wreak havoc on down-screens, while providing more defensive flexibility than Jack ever could. Harrison Barnes, a.k.a. the new Marvin Williams (over-hyped going into UNC, failure to live up to expectation in UNC, failure to evolve in the NBA; I don't have much hope he ever will) and straight-baller Draymond Green are still in the picture, both of whom will play some 4 in small-ball lineups. Lesser additions like Leandro Barbosa and Brandon Rush could also prove to be key additions as well, especially if Curry or Thompson hit the shelf.

It's important not to put too much stock into the first week or so of the season, but you can look at what's going on and see tendencies, especially with a new coach at the helm. David Lee missed the first three games of the season, but returned in a bench role, only playing six minutes. Lee won't be playing 360 seconds on a nightly basis, but with the team's early season success, it's possible that Steve Kerr keeps him as a bench body and sees how things play out. Andre Iguodala has also been coming off the bench, as Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes are playing the forward spots in a small ball-ish lineup.

Klay Thompson has started the season on fire, averaging 27 points a game while slashing out at 54/50/92. In his fourth season in the league, Thompson looks like he's ready to take the next step, fighting to be mentioned in the same breath as that Harden guy as one of the top 2's in the business. With Curry already at his peak and Thompson hitting his, Golden State is a scary team in the West. If guys like Barnes and Green can make strides and the vets can keep from declining, Curry and Thompson will only shine brighter. If this team is clicking and healthy come spring, watch out.

Marquee matchup

Stephen Curry vs. Patrick Beverley

Whenever an elite point guard steps on the court from an opposing team, Patrick Beverley sees it as a challenge. In all honesty, Beverley probably thinks of everything as a challenge with his hyper-competitive nature, but he's especially jacked up when guarding top-tier point guards. Last season, Curry's numbers against the Rockets were lower than his season averages across the board, with the worst of which being turnovers, committing 5.3 per game. If I were Curry, I'd be a little wary of my ankles against The Pest (as I have dubbed him, even though I've never heard anyone else call him that; The Pest of the West in full). Ask Russell Westbrook how much he likes playing against Beverley.

Beverley is out for at least a week with that groin injury, so we'll have to wait till the next matchup to see these two collide. Hopefully Isaiah Canaan can make Curry's ankles shake a little too.

Houston's key to success

For whatever reason, Houston plays Golden State well. The last time the Warriors could even salvage a 2-2 series split with the Rockets was during the 2007-08 season, and the Rockets have won five out of the last seven affairs. It comes down to limiting Golden State's three-point shooting game, while slowing down Curry and Lee (who averaged 26 and 12 in the two close games played between the two squads last year). Surprisingly, when Bogut sat out, the Warriors actually came out on top, which could either imply that small ball might be a better way to attack Houston, or that D12 just couldn't dominate against backup bigs or undersized defenders; pretty sure it's the latter.

Matchup Guide

Nov. 8, in Houston

  • Part of a two-game homestand that includes a matchup with the San Antonio Spurs two nights earlier (I guess a homestand is like a winning streak; you really need three games for it to count, but fuck it).
  • Houston will be playing without 40% of its' starting lineup in Beverley and Terrence Jones, whose taint is bothering him.
  • After two days off, the Warriors travel to Houston in the middle of a five-game stretch @ Portland, home against the Clips, @ Phoenix and home against San Antonio.
  • Predicted Winner: Houston (banking on Canaan playing some D)

Dec. 10, in Golden State

  • Coming off three days of rest, Houston travels to Cali to take on the Warriors in the front end of a back-to-back before taking on Boogie Cousins and the Sacramento Kings the following night.
  • Playing on one day of rest, the game with Houston is the first of five toughies in a row, as Steve Kerr's crew will travel to Dallas, New Orleans and Memphis before returning home to take on Oklahoma City.
  • Predicted Result: Warriors

Jan. 17, in H-Town (NBA TV)

  • Part of a three-game home stand for Houston which includes a TNT showdown with the Thunder two night earlier and the Indiana Pacers two days after.
  • Also coming off a contest with the Thunder, Golden State plays its' fourth game in five nights on the back end of a back-to-back, traveling from OKC the night before.
  • Projected Winner: Rockets (possible blowout? We shall see)

Jan. 21, in Golden State (ESPN)

  • Houston travels to Golden State after a three-game home stand, the first contest of a three-game road trip. This is in the midst of what will be a season-defining month for the Houston, which plays 17 games in January, 11 of which are on the road.
  • The second of a five-game home stand for the Warriors, but it'll be their sixth game in nine days.
  • Projected Winner: Warriors

I've got the seaspm series at two games apiece, which is fitting for a pair of teams I have in a tier of their own out West. It wouldn't surprise me, and I'm sure most of you, if we saw these two teams do battle in the four-five matchup come April. I'm calling it now: at least one of these games will go into overtime, and at least two will come down to the final possession. These teams have a little bad blood from the Rockets three-point bonanza two years ago and they're so evenly matched that it's hard to expect anything less.

Man, I don't remember the last time November basketball was this fun. The power of competition, I guess.