Since they faced off on opening night, it would seem that Golden State and Houston were on a collision course for the Western Conference crown. After two rounds, the two teams are ready to face off. No more talking, no more what ifs. Here is a preview of what to watch and what I expect to happen throughout the series.
EXPECT REALLY GOOD OFFENSE AND DEFENSE
Both teams love to get out in the open court and get shots up. This will be a high scoring series with both offenses full of talented players. According to NBA.com, The Rockets rank first in offensive rating and the Warriors rank third. This game will feature two of the best offenses from this year’s postseason. While it will be a shootout, both teams have the ability to ramp it up on the defensive end as The Warriors rank first in defensive rating and the Rockets come in at number two. It’s been noted that Golden State has been one of the best teams in terms of passing the ball and Houston has been the worst. It’s the contrast in style that has many people torn between the two teams and excited to see what ultimately happens.
THE HAMPTON FIVE LINEUP
The formerly known Death Lineup has been renamed The Hampton Five lineup. This lineup features the four starters and Andre Iguodala. It has been a staggering lineup when used. It allows Golden State to swarm and be disruptive on defense and allows them to get out in the open court which can bury teams in little time. This lineup hasn’t been used that often but I expect to see a healthy dose of it in this series. The versatility of this lineup is unheard of. On offense, anyone can handle the ball. On defense they can switch any screen and eliminate any mismatch by crowding the ball handler.
HOW HOUSTON RESPONDS TO THE HAMPTON FIVE
Now most teams are not built to match up with this lineup, but I think the Rockets can. I think without a doubt, D’antoni will put Pj Tucker on Draymond Green. One thing I hope they consider is putting Capela on Durant. Now, this isn’t to say that Capela will stop Durant, it’s what I call the adjustment to the adjustment. With Capela on Durant, you have someone with adequate length and athleticism. Capela’s constant energy would force Durant to have to work on both ends. To add, with Durant possibly matched up with Capela, Houston could use him in pick and roll to get the switch and once that happens that could pose problems for the Warriors with lobs over Klay or Steph.
WILL HARDEN RISE TO THE OCCASION?
After last year’s meltdown against the Spurs without Kawhi Leonard, James Harden critics have reminded us that he has yet to display that he can show up consistently in the playoffs. Will this be the year? After another tremendous regular season, Can James Harden finally get over the top?
THE CHRIS PAUL EFFECT
Last season in the playoffs, the Rockets were one of the worst teams at taking care of the ball. This season, they rank first in fewest turnovers per game, averaging just under 10 turnovers. Chris Paul has a lot to do with that. He has settled down the at times erratic play of the Rockets and allowing Harden to handle the ball less. One way teams in get in trouble against the Warriors is allowing them to get out in transition. If Houston can hold on to the ball and force The Warriors to play in the half-court, their chances of being successful increase. It’s already tough to guard them, you do not want to give them easy looks in transition.
This series will definitely be a good one. I ultimately see the Warriors talent and experience being the deciding factor. I have the series going six games, with the Warriors coming out on top.
*Stats from NBA.com