2018 NBA Western Conference Finals Series Preview: Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets
Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets
Game 1 Odds
Time: Monday, May 14 at 8 PM CT (TNT)
Spread: HOU -1.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
At long last, the most anticipated matchup of the Western Conference has arrived in its final series, as the Houston Rockets host the Golden State Warriors for Game 1 of the Best-of-seven. Houston compiled an impressive 65-win season to notch the No. 1 seed, which gives it homecourt advantage for this showdown. Nevertheless, knocking off the defending NBA Champion Warriors will be no small task for Chris Paul, James Harden, and company.
Both these clubs won their second-round series in five games, but their toughest respective tasks are one another, and this should be an exciting showdown between the two most offensively dominant teams in the Association. Without further ado, let us take a look at the positional breakdown between these teams in an attempt to discern the series victors.
Backcourt: Stephen Curry/Klay Thompson vs. Chris Paul/James Harden
The “Splash Brothers” of the Golden State Warriors have long been considered the league’s best backcourt, but perhaps that changed this season. The Houston Rockets signed Chris Paul last offseason, and he seamlessly meshed with James Harden to produce a tandem tantamount to Golden State’s. Sure, the Warriors pairing has the edge in outside shooting, but Houston’s duo outclasses it nearly everywhere else. The Rockets also posted a 34-7 mark at home this season, so its homecourt advantage could factor heavily into this matchup.
For the postseason, Harden and Paul have combined to average 50.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 13.8 assists. Comparatively, Curry and Thompson have been good for combined averages of 45.7 points, 10 rebounds, and 5.8 assists. While Curry has appeared in just four games (and started three of those), it is hard to deny that Houston has an edge in the backcourt, particularly because Klay Thompson may have some serious issues manning up with Harden. Harden gets the benefit of so many whistles, and while Thompson is a good defender, he will have to keep his hands out of the proverbial cookie jar to avoid early foul trouble.
Expect Houston to try to take Klay out of his game while giving Harden his typical high-usage. and it may spell trouble because the Dubs need Thompson on the court for spacing purposes.
Frontcourt: Kevin Durant/Draymond Green/JaVale McGee vs. Trevor Ariza/PJ Tucker/Clint Capela
Clint Capela was one of the heroes of the Rockets’ series as he handily outplayed likely Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. Capela will be in line for a max contract this summer, and he also outclasses JaVale McGee by miles. It is, however, Houston’s only edge in the frontcourt. Once again, another team will have to find some form of an answer in slowing Kevin Durant. That task will fall to Trevor Ariza, who is a solid defender, though not quite the lockdown defender he was earlier in his career.
Regardless of that, he will give Durant much more difficulty than the Pelicans were able to, notwithstanding that the 6’4” Jrue Holiday did put forth an outstanding effort in covering a player six-inches taller than him. Ariza has better length, but probably less foot speed than Holiday, and almost no 3s in the league are really able to do much with Durant has given his length and high release point on his shot. Draymond Green will also be valuable to Golden State in creating offense, but he is not quite as far ahead of PJ Tucker as thought by many. Tucker has blossomed in Houston as a 4-man, and he is backed up by the sharpshooting of Ryan Anderson. Even so, Houston’s serious issue remains Durant, and that is what gives the Dubs an edge in these matchups.
Edge: Golden State
Both teams have outstanding depth, but Houston really has some nice offensive weapons coming off the pine. Starting with Eric Gordon, the Rockets use EG as part of its 3-guard rotation, and he had a sensational season as a volume shooter. As mentioned, Anderson will come in and hopefully spread the court even more for the Rockets, who attempted the most threes in NBA history this season. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute may be called upon to cover Durant some, and he is a good defender who may do a superior job on Durant compared to Ariza, due to his length and sneaky shot-blocking ability.
Aged veteran Joe Johnson has not been a major factor, but he brings some leadership to the court and could be a factor if Mike D’Antoni allows him some minutes. Golden State has plenty of valuable young talent in its second unit, and Jordan Bell is among the best contributors for the Dubs reserves. Shaun Livingston also is a savvy guard capable of making plays and making a killing in the mid-range.
The Dubs only real sore spot is at center, where Draymond Green may slide over to see minutes and prevent the Warriors from having to use a slow-footed Zaza Pachulia.
The Bottom Line:
While the Rockets have the best backcourt in this series, the edge Golden State has with Durant cannot be simply ignored. Nor can its synergy—nor can its experience. The Warriors have merely been tuning up for this matchup, and while Houston poses the best threat of an opposing teams, it still likely will not be enough. And the Rockets even have homecourt. Golden State is simply too experienced and has been here before.
Prediction: Warriors in 6