(Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)
Series Preview: Warriors vs. Rockets
The Golden State Warriors will take on the Houston Rockets in the 2018 Western Conference Finals.
The second-seeded Golden State Warriors face the top-seeded Houston Rockets in the 2018 Western Conference Finals, beginning with Game 1 in Houston on Monday night.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES
The Rockets won the 2017-18 regular season series with the Warriors, winning two of the three games between the two teams.
10/17/17 at Golden State: Rockets 122, Warriors 121
Kevin Durant's would-be game-winner was ruled to have come after the final buzzer sounded, as the Rockets squeeked by the Warriors on Opening Night. Game Recap
1/4/18 at Houston: Warriors 124, Rockets 114
The Splash Brothers combined for 57 points and Draymond Green recorded a triple-double to help Golden State prevail on the Rockets' home floor. Game Recap
1/20/18 at Houston: Rockets 116, Warriors 108
Chris Paul led all scorers with 33 points as the Rockets snapped Golden State's 14-game road winning streak. Game Recap
-Both teams had a different leading scorer in every game of the season series.
-The Warriors recorded at least 31 assists in every game.
-The Rockets attempted a combined 128 three-pointers over the course of the season series, including 50 in Golden State's lone win, setting a Warriors' opponent franchise record for most three-pointers attempted in a game.
-Andre Iguodala missed two games (both Houston wins), while James Harden and Kevin Durant both missed the Warriors' victory.
MATCHUP AT A GLANCE
Regular Season Ranks in Parenthesis
|2nd in West||1st in West|
|PTS: 113.5 (1st)||PTS: 112.4 (2nd)|
|REB: 43.5 (17th)||REB: 43.5 (18th)|
|AST: 29.3 (1st)||AST: 21.5 (T-26th)|
HOUSTON SCOUTING REPORT
For the first time in the Steve Kerr era, the Warriors will open a playoff series on the road. That’s because after finishing with the league’s top record in each of the last three seasons, Golden State fell short of doing it a fourth time in a row, as that honor went to the Rockets this year.
With a record of 65-17, Houston was the only team in the league to break the 60-win plateau this season. They, much like the Warriors, were one of the top two-way teams in the NBA. The Rockets averaged 112.2 points per 100 possessions during the regular season, second in the NBA behind only Golden State, who posted an offensive rating of 112.3. On the defensive end, Houston’s defensive rating of 103.8 points allowed per 100 possessions ranked sixth in the NBA, slightly ahead of the Warriors (104.2) in eighth. While both teams have seen a slight dip in their offensive rating in the playoffs, their respective defenses have actually been even better. Through the first two rounds of the postseason, Golden State leads all playoff teams with a defensive rating of 99.3, with Houston (102.1) right behind them in second.
Houston is unique in their affinity for the three-pointer. The Rockets attempted an average of 42.3 three-pointers per game during the regular season, 6.6 more than any other team in the league. Their three-point percentage (.362, 14th in NBA) ranked in the middle of the pack, but their additional attempts often resulted in a significant advantage in points from beyond the arc.
No player in the league attempted more three-pointers per game than the Rockets’ James Harden (10.0), who will likely be awarded with his first ever league MVP for his efforts this season. Harden’s per-game averages of 30.4 points and 8.8 assists ranked first and fourth, respectively, in the NBA, playing alongside Chris Paul to form one of the most talented and decorated backcourts in NBA history. The Warriors, of course, also have a star-studded backcourt, and that positional matchup will certainly be a main point of interest as the Conference Finals play out.
TEAM PLAYOFF LEADERS
|PTS: Durant (28.0)||PTS: Harden (28.5)|
|REB: Green (11.5)||REB: Capela (12.2)|
|AST: Green (9.0)||AST: Harden (7.4)|
MATCHUP TO WATCH
The Warriors and Rockets are the two best offensive teams in the league, each led by multiple All-Stars capable of taking a game over at any moment. If we assume both backcourts play up to their potential and effectively cancel each other out, that places a great onus on two players critical to their respective defenses, namely Draymond Green and Clint Capela.
For the first time ever, Steve Kerr started the vaunted ‘Hamptons 5’ lineup of Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Durant and Green in Game 4 of the Pelicans series, and did so again in their series-clinching Game 5 victory. That lineup outscored the Pelicans by a 113-64 margin in 37 total minutes on the court together, posting equally absurd offensive and defensive ratings of 130.7 and 76.2, respectively. None of that would have been possible without Green’s ability to match up defensively with players like Anthony Davis, who have a significant size advantage over him. Green just became the first player in franchise history to average a triple-double over the course of a playoff series, and while his offensive versatility plays a big part in what the Warriors do on that end of the court, there’s no question his greatest value lies on the defensive end. If Kerr does indeed start the Hamptons 5 lineup and/or play them extended minutes in this series, Green’s ability to captain the defense and wreak havoc on the Rockets’ offensive game plan will become that much more critical.
On the other side of that coin is Houston’s Capela, who will likely need to capitalize on his size advantage if the Rockets are going to be successful. Capela has taken the next step in his individual development this season and established himself as one of the top young centers in the Western Conference. He’s outplayed big men like Karl Anthony-Towns and Rudy Gobert in the Rockets’ first two series of the playoffs, and will now face a different sort of test in the shorter, but more agile Green. Kevon Looney will likely match up against Capela for certain portions of the series, but come crunch time, expect Green to be the one defending Capela in the post. Capela averaged a double-double and led all NBA players (min. 20 minutes per game) in field goal percentage (.652) during the regular season, while also ranking fourth in the league with 1.9 blocks per contest. Whether blocking shots or converting alley-oops, Capela’s combination of length and athleticism is a challenge for anyone, and one that has the potential to cause a lot of problems for Golden State.