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Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors game preview

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NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

I know it’s tempting. But you cannot use this game as a benchmark for where the Rockets stack up in relation to the NBA champion Golden State Warriors. You absolutely cannot do it.

For one thing, the Warriors will be without Steph Curry, who’s scheduled to be re-evaluated in ten days after suffering an adductor strain in his groin area. For another, the Warriors are dealing with their first bout of true adversity in the last four years. Draymond Green and Kevin Durant are at odds over late-game strategy or free agency decisions, or both. Durant’s free agency certainly looms large, as does Draymond’s after next season. It’s causing legitimate tension for a team that has not only worked themselves into a semi-monopoly of some of the best talent in the game, but has thus far avoided the pettiness and in-fighting that has plagued every team since time immemorial.

Despite all that, Houston is going to have a tough time hanging with the Warriors. Golden State knows their offense inside and out. Even without Curry, they have the two best shooters in the NBA in Durant and Klay Thompson. They have routinely made Clint Capela a negligible factor in their matchups. And they have the length and speed on defense to make life difficult for Houston’s style of play. Their physical play will allow for live-ball turnovers, which will lead to open threes and layups in transition. It’s what they do.

Tonight isn’t a benchmark so much as it’s a checkpoint. The Rockets have issues of their own, and even with back-to-back wins against good teams in Indiana and Denver, Houston can only worry about themselves at this point. They aren’t ready for Golden State right now, but they don’t have to be ready tonight.

Tip-off is at 7pm CT on TNT