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Western Conference Finals: Key Factors

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After much anticipation, it’s finally happening.

On one end is the #1 seed in the Western Conference who were orchestrating a line-up and gameplan designed to go against the defending champs. The Rockets made some important changes to their team. They added Chris Paul, pairing him with All-Star James Harden. They signed P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute to aid Clint Capela and Trevor Ariza on defense. They also gave Gerald Green an opportunity to play and help the team with energy and output off the bench, and of course they still have Eric Gordon.

On the other end of the spectrum is the defending champions. The Warriors continue to play beautiful basketball, moving the ball and playing great defense. They were also able to make necessary adjustments to address injuries and found ways to win even without their point guard. Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green contributed big along with Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Quinn Cook, and David West. They also managed to deepen their bench and allowed Kerr to experiment with his line-up. Key reserve player Patrick McCaw is unlikely to return any time this playoffs.

It is very exciting to watch both team clash because they are both capable of unleashing their high-powered arsenals and drain threes everywhere. But what will make the difference and help one team advance to the 2018 NBA championship showdown? Here are four factors that both teams should consider if they want to crack the spot at the NBA finals:

DEFENSE

We are all aware of the capacity and ability of both teams to score. But the difference in this series will be how tough their defense is. Although the Warriors are playing great defense in the post-season, the Rockets surprisingly aren’t far behind. Through the first two rounds, Golden State garnered a 99.3 defensive rating (1st in the playoffs) while Houston tallied 102.1 (2nd in the playoffs). However, Golden State’s death line-up is amongst the top 10 players in Defensive Win Shares (DWS) with Green bagging #1 after the first two rounds. While Houston’s duo Harden and Paul are #11 and #12 respectively.

An aggressive and well-executed defense can derail either team’s usual offensive prowess and can detract from their usual pace. Houston should be able to contain the Splash Brothers and Kevin Durant, ushering them to commit off shot selections. While Golden State needs to address Harden’s and Paul’s offensive capabilities, the inside presence of Capela could be a difference maker.

MATCH-UPS

Another factor that needs attention is the match-up. When we talk about match-ups between these two teams, we are not just looking for mismatches and advantages but also who should defend the other team’s stars in order to control their game.

For the Rockets, they need to be able to find ways to control Kevin Durant, who’s a prolific scorer and seemingly unstoppable. They also need to restrain Steph Curry and Klay Thompson before they start to heat up. For the Warriors, they need to limit James Harden’s production without taking the bait and committing fouls. They also need to get Clint Capela out of the shaded area and force Chris Paul off his game.

QUICK ADJUSTMENTS

As we all know, playoffs are about adjustments. How well can one team adjust to the other per game, per quarter, per run will create a big impact on this series?

We already saw how both teams can struggle at the beginning quarters but make a quick run and take over the game in an instant. For Houston, how well they will adjust and address Warriors’ death line-up will be crucial to their game. For Golden State, how they handle the Rockets superstars’ ISO game can make the difference in this series.

SENSE OF URGENCY AND PUSH THE OTHER TEAM

https://twitter.com/warriors/status/994081389980078080

Having Rockets-Warriors in this Western Conference Finals is truly a test of character for both teams. Each team should have the sense of urgency playing with the other or else they can be burnt in an instant. No team should be lagging behind and lazy with their offense and defense. Because of the caliber of these two teams, neither should take things lightly nor find themselves sloppy. Also, both teams should continue pushing and threatening each other with runs, plays, and physicality.

It’s exciting to see how Houston will disturb the passing lanes and closing the spaces for Golden State and how the Warriors will defend the paint while hampering threes.

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About Angelo Mallari

Married and Father of two. Currently an educator in Xavier School, Philippines and a contributor for TLSportsMedia.

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