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Preview: Rockets at Warriors

Setting the scene for Houston's matchup with the Golden State Warriors

SAN FRANCISCO - Setting the scene for Houston’s matchup with the Golden State Warriors:

The Basics:

Houston Rockets (37-17) at Golden State Warriors (32-22)

Point Differential:

Golden State: +4.7 (NBA rank: 6th)

Houston: +4.5 (NBA rank: 7th)

Offensive Rating (points per 100 possessions):

Golden State: 104.2 (12th)

Houston: 108.0 (4th)

Defensive Rating (points allowed per 100 possessions):

Golden State: 99.4 (4th)

Houston: 102.1 (T-8th)

Pace (number of possessions per 48 minutes):

Golden State: 99.84 (5th)

Houston: 98.24 (6th)

Four Factors:

Shooting – Effective field goal percentage (eFG% is a field goal percentage that’s adjusted for made 3-pointers being 1.5 times more valuable than a 2-point shot):

Golden State: 51.3% (8th)

Houston: 53.3% (3rd)

Turnovers – Turnover ratio (the number of turnovers a team averages per 100 possessions):

Golden State: 16.0 (T-23rd)

Houston: 16.5 (28th)

Rebounding – Rebound percentage (the percentage of total rebounds obtained)

Golden State: 51.5% (8th); offensive rebound rate: 25.7% (15th); defensive rebound rate: 76.3% (3rd)

Houston: 51.9% (T-4th); offensive rebound rate: 27.3% (T-11th); defensive rebound rate: 73.4% (22nd)

Free Throws – Free throw rate (the rate at which a team goes to the line relative to the number of field goals it attempts):

Golden State: .259 (23rd)

Houston: .393 (1st)

Now that Houston’s much ballyhooed and ultimately one-sided beat down of the Lakers is in the rearview mirror, the Rockets move on to the real meat of their five-game west coast road swing tonight when they pay a visit to the Golden State Warriors.

The Dubs have hardly been playing their best basketball of late as injuries, inconsistency and a surprisingly scuffling offense have prevented them from living up to the exceedingly high expectations bestowed upon them after they followed up an impressive postseason run with a summer splash signing of Andre Iguodala. As a result, they rather shockingly find themselves in what figures to be a knock down, drag out fight for Western Conference playoff qualification. There’s still nearly two months left in the regular season of course, but as of now Golden State precariously sits just a game-and-a-half ahead of ninth-place Memphis. One assumes that standing is far too close for comfort for a Warriors team that was receiving national pub as a potential title contender just one month ago.

Nonetheless, this obviously remains a potent squad positively bubbling with potential. And if any team understands how quickly the tides of fortune can turn, it’s the Rockets. After all, not much time has passed since the sky seemed to be falling in Houston in the wake of back-to-back bad losses to Memphis. Well guess what: The Rockets haven’t dropped a game since. And tonight they’ll want to ensure they don’t allow Golden State to start the process of initiating a similar turnaround.

Know Thy Enemy

- By now it should go without saying that slowing the Warriors’ offense begins with keeping an exceedingly close eye on Steph Curry. He and fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson are Nos. 1-2 in the league in 3-pointers made this season. When they’re on the floor together, Golden State’s offense hums along at a league-best level, producing a prolific 110 points per 100 possessions. But remove Curry from that equation and, whoa boy, does the Warriors’ steady stream of points slow to a trickle. Golden State’s offensive efficiency rating when he’s on the bench grabbing a breather: an anemic 90.2 – a mark that would be dead last in the league by a significant margin. That glaring deficiency should go a long way toward explaining why the Warriors moved last night to acquire Steve Blake before today’s trade deadline.

Interestingly (and not likely to last), Curry has hit just two of the 10 3s he has attempted against the Rockets this season. Thompson, meanwhile, is an icy 1-for-11. Not coincidentally, Houston is 2-0 in those contests.

- You will also no doubt not be surprised to hear that Andre Iguodala plays a huge role in Golden State’s success as well. The Warriors own a +13.5 net rating with him on the floor – the highest such mark on the team – and it’s very likely that no other player impacts the effectiveness of their defense to the degree that he does.

Iguodala, in fact, boasts the third-highest plus/minus in the NBA, owning a mark of +396 (only Indiana’s Roy Hibbert and Paul George rank higher in that category). And for further proof of the Warriors’ potential potency, look no further than the fact that Curry and David Lee rank fifth and sixth in that category, respectively.

- Golden State resides in the league’s top-five in terms of conceding the fewest pace-adjusted paint points per game. Related: The Warriors allow the fourth-fewest field goal attempts from inside the restricted area. But rest assured the Rockets will severely test Golden State in that area tonight, especially if Andrew Bogut is unable to play due to a shoulder injury that has forced him to miss the Warriors’ last five games.

For what it’s worth, Houston dominated the interior during its 105-83 win over the Warriors on December 6 when the Rockets owned a 54-36 edge in paint points. One week later, however, Golden State flipped the script thanks in large part to Marreese Speights’ Moses Malone impersonation as the Warriors’ back-up big man racked up eight offensive rebounds to help his club claim a 66-40 advantage in the paint. Suffice to say that particular occurrence will be brought up during the Rockets’ team meeting today.

In the spotlight

James Harden versus the Warriors so far this season: 30 points, 6.5 assists and four rebounds per game while shooting 50 percent from the field. In 82 minutes of playing time against the Dubs, he’s a team-leading +44 (Harden has actually led Houston in plus/minus in both games against Golden State).

But here’s the twist: Harden and the Rockets have yet to face the Warriors with Andre Iguodala healthy and available this season. While with Denver last year, Iggy played a huge role in slowing Houston’s All-Star shooting guard and helping the Nuggets sweep all four games against the Rockets (Harden’s averages from those contests: 18.3 points on 38.2 percent shooting – including an 18.8 percent mark from behind the 3-point line – and 5.5 turnovers per game). As far as “game within the game” matchups go, this battle figures to be among the most enjoyable and important of the evening.

Injury Update

Ronnie Brewer (ankle) will be a game-time decision.

All stats courtesy of NBA.com except where otherwise noted.