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Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors game preview

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

Firstly, huge shoutout to Colin and Conrad for covering the previews in my absence. I’m convinced that the Rockets won both games because of their awesome previews. In all seriousness, I’m incredibly grateful. I always want to write all 82 previews, but that’s not a realistic goal most seasons. I really appreciate how we have a group at TDS that can cover for each other.

The Rockets are on a 9-game winning streak, and are suddenly within shouting distance of the top 2 seeds. While Houston would need quite a bit of help to catch Denver or Golden State, they do play each team one more time, so those games are pretty important if Houston wants to get homecourt advantage in the second round.

The Golden State Warriors are struggling right now, but you would be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to remove the Dubs from “lock” status when it comes to winning the NBA championship. Mostly, they seem bored by the regular season at this point and know they can turn it on in the postseason because they have done it before.

Still, the Warriors seem to be aware that this stretch (4-6 in their previous 10) has been incredibly trying, and even Steph Curry has admitted that tonight’s game is a big one for the champs.

Behind the scenes, there could be some signs that the invincibility armor of the Dubs is starting to crack. There’s Steve Kerr saying that he’s “tired of Draymond’s shit,” which Kerr downplayed the next day. And there’s Klay Thompson complaining that the crowd noise at Oracle hasn’t been up to snuff. Finally, there’s Kevin Durant showing some displeasure during the Phoenix Suns game.

This is mostly fun from the outside, where the basketball world has seen the Warriors develop a stranglehold on the NBA title for the last four seasons (with one notable interruption). Fans of other contending teams want this team gone, as do most casual fans. The rumors of Durant and Thompson leaving in the offseason have continued all season and that gives hope to the legions of non-Warriors fans. Truly, the GM who can pry away either of those stars this summer should be given Executive of the Year on the spot.

Again, no one is betting against the Warriors or thinks they aren’t going to cruise to an NBA title. Maybe some homers will disagree, but this team is still the cream of the crop and has too much talent (six All-Stars, five All-NBAers, two MVPs, two Finals MVPs, two All-NBA first team defense players, one Defensive Player of the Year, etc.) to fall off a cliff when the games matter.

Durant is out tonight with a sprained ankle, but then without Durant you only have the backbone of a 73-9 team to fall back on. So that’s tough. I think the Warriors will really want this game to avoid the season sweep and to send a message to the NBA.

Tip-off is at 8:30pm CT on ESPN