Golden State Warriors (67-15) vs. Houston Rockets (56-26)
(Golden State 4-0 season series)
W hether it was fate that Curry and Harden meet in the Western Conference final after all MVP discussions?
First of all, we must forget regular season matchups and put it aside because the playoff is a "win or go home" competition.
It is obvious that Warriors maximizes their strengths when they can run and play fast - Curry and Thompson can catch fire in a heartbeat and burn you to the ground.
The Clutch City Comeback
The Clippers underestimated the heart of a champion. Indeed, this Rockets team didn't play together before the finish of the regular season. Due to injuries of Howard, Beverley, Motiejunas and acquisitions of Smith and Brewer.
James Harden will play with a big chip on his shoulder. He will try to use every second on the floor to prove he's real MVP.
Harden wasn't at his best against the Clippers, shooting under 40 %, but his teammates have found a way to keep it close and put him in the position to win.
At one point during the sixth game, I thought whether is possible that they would lose series without firing a shot? At the other moment, they were celebrating one the biggest comebacks in playoffs history.
From the start of the game 7, it looked like they found a new team chemistry. Was that due to Clippers collapse or this is a new Rockets team, we will see very soon.
Golden State also survived some fear, down 2-1 in the hostile atmosphere of FedEx Forum, but their answer was brutal, winning 3 in the row in the big fashion.
It is exciting how Golden State win their series by adjusting rotations and Houston won it by knockout in the open fight.
Rockets can't stop Stephen Curry Show
Pablo Prigioni and Jason Terry are playing point guard in the Houston Rockets. Patrick Beverley is a game-time decision, and I'm pretty sure that he will play in this series.
Beverley knows to be very aggressive, but he can't be aggressive when Stephen Curry shoot the ball, so he can't stop him. Pablo Prigioni is too slow for him, and Jason Terry can't defend Stephen Curry.
Actually, Steph Curry will have his nights off against the Rockets. I expect 25+ points in every game against his defenders.
Rockets must stop other players than Stephen Curry. And that is a key in this series.
Secret Question: But, what If McHale use Trevor Ariza or Corey Brewer against Stephen Curry?
The Superman against the Warriors
The biggest trump card in this series for the Rockets should be Dwight Howard. Historically he always played well against the Warriors even from his Orlando days. From the start of playoffs, he caught his old form, averaging 17.2 ppg, 13.8 rpg, 2.5 bpg. His free-throw shooting is awful lately, but Clippers didn't find the way to exploit.
But, from the day they traded Ellis for Bogut, Warriors had this kind stuff in mind. He finally paid off significant time, in every minute of the playoffs.
Perhaps he can not jump over Howard and dunk on him like DeAndre Jordan, but be sure he will put the body on him every time fundamentally, and he is a very good defender in the post.
The Biggest Matchup
The biggest matchup will be Thompson vs. Harden.
Crucial one for the Rockets, Harden really must outplay Thomson if they want to make this close. And he should play point guard in the offense because Houston must make the adjustment with point guard position.
Thompson was silent for his standards against the Memphis. The flow of the game and excellent defence by Allen was a big problem for him, but Houston don't have that luxury.
In a fast-paced game, he becomes the time bomb, and that must be a huge worry for the Rockets. Every time he hits two shots in a row they will need to remember what happened to Stauskas and McLemore.
W Factors against H Factors
It will be intriguing to see how will McHale continue to use Josh Smith as a starter. Personally, I don't like that matchup for the Rockets. Green is too versatile and smart for him; Smith does not have post moves like Terrence Jones so all of his strengths would be erased.
Trevor Ariza will likely have the task to stop any player who becomes hot. He literally changed the series against the Clippers by shutting down J.J. Redick last three games and limit him to 6-26 behind the arc.
Pretty easy that hot hand could be on the wing position because Harrison Barnes is proved one more time, that he is a player for the big series.
Black Falcon was unstoppable against Memphis. He learned how to use the space after Curry and Thompson draw all the attention.
Houston bench was X factor against the Clippers, but this time on the other side instead of Rivers, Crawford and Davis will be Iguodala, Lee and Livingston.
Prigioni played some clutch minutes, but good luck with that when Shaun Livingston enter the game. Even against bigger Memphis guards, he was deadly dangerous in the paint. He confirmed his reputation, as on of the best executors per post up.
Corey Brewer will be set up for a big role. He will have to fill every hole along with Ariza in the perimeter defence, and try to help Jason Terry to slow down Steph Curry.
Iguodala found his shot in the most important part of the season. Once again, he could be X factor for the Warriors. If Thompson start to struggle defensively against the Harden, Iggy will be the first one to come off the bench.
Leandro Barbosa was completely knocked out of rotation against the Memphis, but in this up-tempo series he will probably get some minutes.
The Philosophy of Warriors and Rockets
There are no secrets between these teams. They have a similar philosophy of the game and expect the festival of counter-attacks and triplets.
The biggest advantage for the Warriors (except Curry) will be their defence, they kept Memphis at 87 points per game, almost 10 points below their season average.
Houston is way more dangerous, but every defence in this series will be worth gold.
The Champions of the Rings?
In the last 30 years, there have been a few eras, a few legendary teams and several best top ten players of all times. Years go by, and a certain number of teams still wins titles, while the rest of them watch and try to enter this elite group.
In 30 NBA seasons, only eight teams have managed to win the NBA championship. Out of these eight teams, only Dallas won the championship once while the remaining seven teams have won the title twice or more times. Who were the winners in the last thirty seasons? What is the situation with these eight teams this season?
Chicago Bulls. Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, Detroit Pistons,Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks.
If any other team than Houston win the title, that team will enter this elite group. Houston is last team in the group: The Champions of the Rings.
Fadeaway Prediction by Marlon: Rockets in 7
Fadeaway Predictions by Steph: Warriors in 6
Fadeaway Predictions by Alonzo Warond: Warriors in 6