HOUSTON -- No more talking. It’s time to play, time for the defending NBA champion Warriors to face the challenge of the league’s best regular-season team, the Houston Rockets, in the Western Conference Finals.
Though this is the third time in four years that the teams have squared off in the postseason, with the Warriors winning the first two, both in five games. This, however, is the first time the Rockets were able to earn homecourt advantage.
Rockets by 1.5
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Klay Thompson vs. James Harden: Thompson will be among several defenders on Harden, who led the NBA in scoring (30.4 ppg) after finishing second in each of the three previous seasons. With Andre Iguodala and Thompson taking turns, the Warriors have done a terrific job of keeping Harden off the free throw line and making him earn his points. They also want to test his defense, which has improved but still won’t keep Thompson from getting open looks. The Warriors would be thrilled if Thompson scores 80 percent of Harden’s total. Anything more is a bonus.
Warriors: G Pat McCaw (lumbar spine contusion) is listed as out.
Rockets: No injuries reported.
Scott Foster (crew chief), Tony Brothers, Tom Washington, Bill Spooner (alternate)
ROAD TO THE CONFERENCE FINALS
Warriors: Defeated San Antonio in five games in the first round, defeated New Orleans in five games in the conference semifinals.
Rockets: Defeated Minnesota in five games in the first round, defeated Utah in five games in the conference semifinals.
The teams met three times in the regular season, with Houston posting a 122-121 win on Oct. 17 at Oakland, the Warriors taking a 124-114 victory on Jan. 4 at Houston and the Rockets prevailing 116-108 on Jan. 20 in Houston. The Warriors have won 12 of the last 15 meetings in the regular season.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
THE BIG MEN: The vast majority of this series will feature small-ball units, but only the Rockets have a regular starting center in Clint Capela. The Warriors have been flexible, with JaVale McGee and Draymond Green starting in these playoffs. Other options in this series are youngsters Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell.
PARKING ON THE ARC: No team shoots more 3-pointers than the Rockets, who averaged 42.9 attempts per game in the regular season and are at 39.9 this postseason. The Warriors are game planning to prevent open look from the corners, a Houston staple, while also contesting everything on the wing.
THE STARTS: The Rockets have been aiming for the Warriors for two full years, and this is their best position so far. The Warriors are able to establish themselves early and take the crowd out of the game, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Rockets respond. Are these Rockets capable of taking control?