I was looking for a good picture for this preview and was hit with Clint Capela taking a jump shot over Kevin Durant. Huh?
Anyway, the (not-so) storybook season is over for the Houston Rockets. We’re in the final chapter where the bad guys win and the good guys have to return home to regroup for the 24th straight time since 1995.
The Golden State Warriors are still the giants, even with DeMarcus Cousins out with a torn quadriceps muscle. The Dubs have allowed boredom to creep in, but they also know that as long as they stay together as a super-duper-team, they control their own narrative and can continue to lay claim to the title of greatest team of all time. They are unlikely to lose with this core group of four players. All that Houston and the rest of the NBA can hope for is that Kevin Durant wants to prove himself elsewhere.
Against Utah, the Rockets allowed the Jazz to take wide open threes and hoped that Utah’s shooters wouldn’t be able to hit them. On the whole, it was the correct play and Utah’s cadre of role players were generally unable to make the Rockets pay for the strategy. Against the Warriors, this ploy will be death, as Houston will need to run the Warriors off the three-point line at every opportunity. An 18-footer from Steph Curry or Klay Thompson is better than a three, and that’s the only way to keep the Warriors from going on those 15-0 runs that they so often squeeze off in the third quarter.
As for Houston, they will probably just be happy that Rudy Gobert is no longer around to affect James Harden’s forays to the hoop. Kevon Looney and Andrew Bogut certainly have the size to alter shots, but nothing to the extent of the Stifle Tower. Rather, the Warriors will be able to defend Harden on the perimeter with Thompson and Andre Iguodala. We’ll see if Houston goes back to the pick-and-roll or if they continue to let the Beard run isolation basketball.
Prediction: The Warriors prove that they are in a class by themselves, spanking the Rockets 123-98 on their way to a 4-1 series win.
Tip-off is at 2:30pm CT on ABC