OAKLAND, CA – JUNE 12: Kevin Durant #35 and Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors discuss the play against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half in Game 5 of the 2017 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 12, 2017 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Last summer, the Houston Rockets shocked the basketball world by pulling off a mega-trade for point guard Chris Paul, creating one of the more star-studded backcourts in recent memory when paired with superstar James Harden. Houston made this move to combat the superteam that went 16-1 in the 2017 Playoffs, the Golden State Warriors. In this Western Conference Finals preview, we will breakdown what is sure to be a memorable series.

Western Conference Finals Preview

There have been some instances in NBA history where everyone craves a matchup that never actually happens, a la Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James in the NBA Finals. Thankfully, NBA fans everywhere will get to watch the series everyone has craved for ten months when the Rockets and Warriors match up in the Western Conference Finals. This series is full of star power and intrigue.

Houston is an astounding 50-5 when the triumvirate of Paul, Harden, and Clint Capela all play together. On the other hand, the Warriors are 24-3 in the playoffs since signing Kevin Durant in the summer of 2016.

In this Western Conference finals preview, we take a look at what should be a fun and historic matchup.

Starting Lineups

Houston Rockets

Chris Paul, SG James Harden, SF Trevor Ariza, PF P.J. Tucker, C Clint Capela

Golden State Warriors

PG Stephen Curry, SG Klay Thompson, SF Andre Iguodala, PF Kevin Durant, C Draymond Green

HOU won the season series 2-1.

Playoff Recaps So Far

Houston beat the Minnesota Timberwolves in Round 1 in five games. Then, they defeated the Utah Jazz in Round 2, also in five games.

Golden State beat the San Antonio Spurs in five in Round 1. To keep the gentlemen’s sweeps going, they beat the New Orleans Pelicans in five as well.

Through ten games apiece, the Warriors and the Rockets have the top two net ratings in the playoffs, at 9.5 and 9.0, respectively. Houston is No. 1 in playoff offensive efficiency and No. 2 in defense while Golden State is No. 4 and 1 in those categories.

Western Conference Finals Series Keys

The Rockets win if…

Clint Capela can play the best basketball of his career. In the three regular-season matchups, Capela averaged 15 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game. He has to be able to stay on the floor when the Warriors go small and provide hard rolls to the rim after his bone-crushing screens.

The most important factor in this series is whether or not Capela can get Draymond Green into foul trouble.

Superstars Chris Paul and James Harden need to play Curry and Durant at least to a draw while not allowing Klay Thompson to get going.

The Rockets’ defense has to continue to stifle opposing teams. Houston’s defensive wings such as Ariza, Tucker, and Luc Mbah a Moute have to make Durant as inefficient as possible.

Also, it wouldn’t hurt if Houston can make at least 15 threes a game for the series.

The Warriors win if…

Curry can continue to return to his MVP-level form while continuing his apparent mission to outplay CP3 whenever possible. Fellow Splash Bro Thompson has to shake his recent second-round slump and average an efficient 20 points a night.

Draymond has to run Capela off the floor while continuing to average a near triple-double while playing DPOY-level defense across all positions. Staying out of foul trouble is of the utmost importance.

Durant has to take over close games with his scoring while making wide-open threes (it’s harder for him than it sounds this postseason.)

Rolde players like Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West and Kevon Looney have to make positive two-way contributions.

Prediction

Golden State Warriors in six.

The defending champs, as petty as they’ve shown to be, will take major offense at various quotes about the Rockets “being built to defeat the Warriors.”

The squads will split victories on Houston’s home court, then the Warriors will sweep Games 3 & 4 at home. The Rockets will rally for a win in Game 5, but the series will end in front of the raucous Oracle Arena crowd in a Game 6 victory for the Warriors.

Draymond will be his brash self while understanding his two-way importance to the team. Steph, Klay, and KD will all drain threes with ease.

Chris Paul, coming off of an outrageous close-out game vs Utah, will regress some when facing the defensive pressure from the Warriors. James Harden, who should rightfully be named the MVP this season, will score in bunches at times but have an inefficient series thanks to the efforts of varying Warrior wings.

There will be multiple games where Houston wings Tucker and Mbah a Moute make 7+ corner threes combined, but in the end, it won’t be enough.

The Warrior train will continue chugging onto the NBA Finals, while the Rockets will be left wondering what more they can do to dethrone the champs. (Hint: they magically need to get off the Ryan Anderson albatross contract and pursue a top-tier free agent.)

The series tips on Monday night in Houston. The NBA world will be watching.


View the original article on Last Word On Pro Basketball: Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets Series Preview