Curry & Klay vs Harden & Paul is the juiciest subplot of the Western Conference Finals

Curry & Klay vs Harden & Paul is the juiciest subplot of the Western Conference Finals

HOUSTON -- Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have spent four years winning debates. One after another, glorified NBA backcourts have tried to present an argument, only to end up whimpering away in defeat.

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum of the Trail Blazers are two-time postseason victims.

John Wall and Bradley Beal of the Wizards, 1-7 against the Warriors over the past four years. Nope. Not them.

DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry of the Raptors? Not a chance. They’re 0-8 against the Warriors over past four years.

This new argument, though, is the most legitimate yet: Can James Harden and Chris Paul prove themselves superior to Curry and Thompson?

[LISTEN: Warriors Outsiders Podcast: West Finals predictions; 'what the series comes down to']

That subplot is the juiciest of many raging throughout the Western Conference Finals between the Warriors and Rockets, who meet Monday night for Game 1 at Toyota Center.

“They have weapons all over the floor,” Curry said of the Rockets. “But everything runs through James and Chris.”

The Warriors win the series easily if they throttle Harden and Paul. It’s a very tall task.

They’re two dynamic scorers and playmakers that put a lot of pressure on a defense. For 48 minutes, it’s not going to be just one person defending each of those guys. It’s going to be a total team effort.

Harden led the NBA in scoring (30.4 points per game) and is expected to be a landslide winner in the MVP voting. He finished second to Russell Westbrook in the voting last season, and second to Curry in 2015, though Harden that year won in a vote among NBA players.

Thompson and Harden are 10 years removed from being high school competitors in greater Los Angeles.

“He has developed into an MVP-caliber player, myself an All-Star,” Thompson said. “It just shows we put in a lot of work to get here. We were both touted coming out of high school, but it wasn’t like we were perceived to be at this level.

“He is great at all three levels, and he’s an amazing playmaker.”

Harden has not had much luck beating the Warriors, losing in the 2015 conference finals and falling in the first round in 2016. That changed this season, when the Rockets won two of three games. The lone Warriors victory came on Jan. 4 at Houston, with Harden sidelined by leg soreness.

It’s Paul’s arrival in Houston this season that now pushes the argument. The natural point guard is a nine-time All-Star bound for the Hall of Fame, and he made a surprisingly smooth transition in playing alongside another ball-dominant guard.

Curry has spent much of his career stalking the shadow of Paul, and often coming out on top. Both played prep basketball in North Carolina, Paul four years ahead of Curry. They developed a relationship that grew into a rivalry as professionals.

“He was a great mentor when it came to understanding how a guy at his level prepared over the summer for an NBA season, with his discipline and his work ethic,” Curry said, recalling the summer prior to his rookie season. “I got to see that first-hand after Summer League, through the beginning of the season.

“He demonstrated what it takes to be great in this league, and it was a nice little eye-opener that summer, working out with him and competing against him.”

The Warriors, behind Curry and Thompson, grew to dominate the former Clippers backcourt of Paul and JJ Redick. Harden is not exactly Redick.

Harden and Paul combined to average 49.0 points per game, on 45.3-percent shooting from the field, including 37.1 percent from beyond the arc.

Curry and Thompson were not as prolific but were appreciably more efficient, combining for 46.4 points per game, on 49.1-percent shooting overall, 43.2 percent from deep.

Those numbers won’t matter when the teams face off in this series. Until there is an outcome, may the debate rage.

Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson questionable for Game 5 vs Rockets

Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson questionable for Game 5 vs Rockets

Andre Iguodala has some company on the Warriors' injury report ahead of Game 5 in Houston on Thursday night.

Klay Thompson, who suffered a left knee strain during the first half of Game 4, is listed as questionable, the team announced Wednesday afternoon.

"Klay's moving aroound really well. I think Klay's going to be fine," Steve Kerr said following practice on Wednesday in Houston.

Iguodala missed Game 4 with a left lateral leg contusion and is questionable for Game 5.

"He's feeling a little better today. And he's out on the floor, not doing a whole lot, but making progress," Kerr said.

Thompson's injury occurred in the first minute of the second quarter on Tuesday. As he drove to the basket against Rockets center Clint Capela, he landed awkwardly and fell to the court. He stay in the game, but was quickly removed and went to the locker room with the Warriors trainers. Though the team diagnosed him with a left knee strain, Thompson returned to the game and played 39 total minutes.

Game Result/Schedule
Game 1 Warriors 119, Rockets 106
Game 2 Rockets 127, Warriors 105
Game 3 Warriors 126, Rockets 85
Game 4 Rockets 95, Warriors 92
Game 5 Houston -- Thursday, May 24th at 6pm
Game 6 Oakland -- Saturday, May 26th at 6pm
Game 7 Houston -- Monday, May 28th at 6pm

'I thought it was bad' -- Bob Myers takes you inside training room for Klay's knee evaluation

'I thought it was bad' -- Bob Myers takes you inside training room for Klay's knee evaluation

Klay Thompson sustained a strained left knee on Tuesday night.

He checked out of the game with 10:16 left in the second quarter, and returned at the 6:06 mark.

On Wednesday afternoon, Warriors GM Bob Myers joined Greg Papa and Bonta Hill on 95.7 The Game and provided the following update on the four-time All-Star:

"He was a little sore today ... flying is not good for injuries ... he just doesn't get hurt. He's one of those guys. You could tell. I looked at Kirk (Lacob) and I said, 'He's hurt. Klay's hurt.'

"And if you were watching him try to run up and down, I thought it was bad. I was thinking meniscus or something. So then when he got back to the locker room, you can always kind of gauge a player's concern by their mannerisms. And he just threw a towel over his face and laid down on the training table. And that's not a good sign. 

"And then slowly the doctor goes through the progressions ... he passed all those function tests. And Klay couldn't pinpoint where the pain was ... he said it just hurts when (he) runs ... so then we went out in the back of the training room and he tried to run. And our trainer Chelsea free'd it up and it turned out to be a little more of a muscle thing, which was good news. But it was a tweak.

"It's funny -- Klay ran up and down twice and said, 'I'm good.' And just started walking back to the court. I think he's gonna be OK."

Klay only scored 10 points and went 4-for-13 from the field.

He dropped 28 points in Game 1, but has only registered a combined 31 points since.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller