Rockets and Warriors-the one and two in the Western Conference

Posted May 12, 2018

If the Rockets win the series, it will be due to perimeter defense limiting Curry from sniping beyond the arc and double-teaming Durant down low so he can't drive the paint whenever he chooses. At the close of last year's Finals, Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey was famously quoted as saying he'd have to "up his risk profile" if his team was to compete with Golden State.

Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul and James Harden celebrate the team's series win over the Utah Jazz.

Early one Monday morning seven years ago, Steve Kerr sat in a Tulsa, Okla., airport with little to worry about.

For months, as a boring, injury-riddled regular season trudged along with zero to truly motivate the defending champs, as it became clearer with every late-season sprain and loss that they were destined for the second seed, not first, the team's key figures began salivating and targeting, not fearing, what's to come on Monday night: Game 1 of the Western Conference finals in Houston, not Oakland.

In March - amid a bad run of injuries - the Warriors threw in the towel in the battle for the No. 1 seed. "They're either going to have to slow it down, abandon the isolation, abandon something that they typically do all the time because that's just the nature of winning a championship". Cleveland has advanced to the Eastern Conference finals and is awaiting the victor of the conference semifinals series between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, with Boston up 3-1 going into Wednesday night's Game 5 at TD Garden. If Houston has another level, they better bring it now. The Rockets lost to the Warriors 124-114 on January 4 and won 116-108 on January 20.

I understand why Durant feels that way, though.

That's because in those games, the Warriors had something to prove - they needed to silence doubt, establish dominance, or shut up a crowd that they simply didn't like. There is star power on both sides, and playoff history and animus to go with it. "To me, the hardest championship is the first one, as an individual player and as a team, because you don't know-you don't quite know if you can do it", he said.

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Is Houston a threat? In fact, he dismisses any edge people believe the Rockets to have.

Houston wins series 4-1. Houston's 122-121 win in October - a game in which they wiped out a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter - set the stage for what's to come.

These Warriors truly are elite sandbaggers.

Golden State will have the full services of Stephen Curry, who was hampered by injuries at the end of the season, preventing him from playing against San Antonio in Round 1 and the first game of the 5-game Pelicans semifinal series.

Houston made big moves this off-season particularly targeting this series, and how they would match up with the Warriors.

Teams use the playoff pool largely for bonuses for players and staff after the season.

But the "appropriate fear" is built into this series' schedule.

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A two-point difference may sound small, but after adjusting for home-court advantage, that makes the Warriors a 5.4-point underdog on the road, which implies a 36 percent chance to win, and a 50-50 shot at home - a huge departure from the overwhelming odds in Golden State's favor in previous playoff appearances.

Getty The Warriors and Rockets square off in the Western Conference Finals beginning on May 14.

He warned on Thursday that if the Warriors only go in thinking about a split in Houston, they'll have a problem.

Let's start with the basics.

"He said you get out of the way".

"I think with Mbah a Moute and that they can switch and obviously they are switching everything like we do". We are going to keep improving our roster.... "The rest of that stuff will figure itself out".

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