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Round 2 Series Preview: Warriors vs. Rockets

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The second round of the Western Conference kicks off today with the Golden State Warriors taking on the Houston Rockets in Oakland. The Rockets are coming off a 4-1 series win over the Utah Jazz, whereas the Golden State Warriors are fresh off a hard-fought 4-2 series win over the Los Angeles Clippers. This will be a rematch of last years Western Conference Finals where Golden State edged out the Rockets 4-3 to advance to their fourth straight NBA Finals.

The Houston Rockets will be looking to re-write history this time around. In Game 7 of the Conference Finals match up last season, the team missed 27 straight 3-point attempts and shot an awful 15.9% total, making only 7 of their 44 tries. They also lost starting point guard Chris Paul in Game 5 to a hamstring injury before taking a 3-2 series lead over the Warriors and putting their backs against the ropes. This year the Rockets get their redemption shot and the tables have turned in their favor as the Warriors are the team coming into this series shorthanded.

Warriors catch injury bug

While the Warriors defeated the Clippers on Friday night, they didn’t come away unscathed. In Game 2 of that series, Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins went down with a torn quad muscle and is now likely out for the remainder of the playoffs. His presence against the Rockets would have been a key factor as they have no real answer for him on the defensive end. One of his best game as a Warrior came in a win against the Rockets back in March. That game Cousins put up 27 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals. He showed his ability to dominate other centers, specifically Rockets big man Clint Capela. Guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson both injured their ankles in Friday’s Game 6 win over the Clippers, but are active for game one.

Durant versus Harden

Kevin Durant and James Harden are the best players on both team respectively. Durant is averaging a league high 35 ppg in the playoffs already and has looked unstoppable so far. He capped off the Warriors series over the Clippers with a 50-point performance and tied a playoff record with 38 first half points. For the series he shot 56.7% from the field, 40% from deep and 95% from the line, seemingly unbelievable numbers for a player of his size. The only person who is capable of stopping him at this point is himself, but don’t expect him to slow down now with his third straight NBA title on his mind.

James Harden on the other hand has been unstoppable all season long. Putting up 50+ points seven times this season, only Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have done that in NBA history before him. The Rockets have adapted this entire scheme around Harden and allow him to dominate the game with his isolation. Against the Jazz, Harden averaged 28 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and two steals, leading them to a 4-1 series victory. Utah implemented a strange defensive strategy, forcing him to play more to his non-dominate right hand, making things more difficult. His 28-point average fell way below his 36-point regular season mark. You have to believe the Warriors will look to mimic that strategy in a sense to contain Harden as best as possible.

Will the Rockets be the team to finally overcome the super team Warriors? Or will the Dubs continue to prove they are the greatest team in NBA history?

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