Can the Houston Rockets Dethrone the Golden State Warriors?
The Houston Rockets are on a 17 game winning streak. They are the number one seed in the Western Conference. With every passing game, it seems inevitable that we are headed for a Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors Western Conference Finals. The question is, can they dethrone the Warriors? Daryl Morey, the GM of the Houston Rockets has stated that the Rockets were built to beat the Warriors. He has even gone as far as saying that he is obsessed with beating Golden State. But they can they do it? The 2017-2018 NBA season is the first season that this Golden State run has had a legitimate challenger in the western conference. The Rockets have a chance to finish first in the west and have home court advantage throughout the playoffs. The Rockets are 2-1 versus the Warriors this season. They are the only team to beat the Warriors twice in a season since Steve Kerr took over head coaching duties in 2014. Whether the wins will translate to the playoffs remain to be seen but the Rockets are definitely feeling confident when they lace them up versus the Warriors. Let's start with what the Rockets have and why they look like the team that can knock off Golden State.
James Harden. I'll say it again...James Harden. James Harden looks like he is headed to the MVP crown. He leads the league in points at 32 per game and is giving you almost 9 assists per contest. He is a walking triple double and has the only 60pt triple double in the history of the NBA. He is having such an amazing season, there are talks of him being the greatest isolation player in the history of the league. Harden's handle and ability to get into the paint to score or draw fouls can cause NBA coaches to break a few clipboards. Harden also can get into the paint and set up his teammates, hence the 9 assists per game. Clint Capela is a big time recipient of these assists. He posts an impressive 65.5% fg percentage. He is averaging 14pts per game and is a big part of their success. The Rockets have 7 players averaging double figure scoring and some of that can be attributed to newcomer Chris “Cp3” Paul.
One of the best game managers in the history of the NBA was added in the offseason. Chris Paul going to the Rockets from the Clippers was met with skepticism. The talks about Paul and Harden's pairing drew criticism in reference to their ability to play together on the court. There were questions of if the two stars can share the ball or if Chris Paul can play off ball and be effective in an offense. The transition of Chris Paul from the Clippers to the Rockets has been quick and seemingly easy. The Rocket's backcourt of Harden and Paul deliver more assists that any other backcourt in the league. Now the Rockets have two stars who can run an offense effectively and play of the ball effectively. The Rockets have 18 games this season where they have made at least 19 three pointers. With Paul and Harden's ability to draw double teams and find an open player such as Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson or Eric Gordon, there's no wonder they make so many three pointers. The Rockets scoring points and making three pointers come as no surprise. That is not what will carry them to a series victory against the Warriors if they matchup. The Warriors can score just as well as anyone. Ever hear of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant?
The Rockets need to play consistent defense in order to have a chance of holding the the Larry O'Brien Trophy. There are even video compilations on YouTube criticizing James Harden's defense. The Rockets were 21st in defensive rebound percentage a year ago and they are 2nd this season. The more defensive rebounds that they get means that teams aren't getting as many second chance points against them. The Rockets have had an uptick in steals since the addition of Chris Paul. They are 4th in steals in the NBA, last year they were 13th. The Rockets are 6th in points allowed per game, they finished 19th last season. If the Rockets can continue to play consistent defense or improved defense, the Warriors could have a dog fight on their hands if they meet the Houston in the Western Finals. The Warriors have had defensive lapses and have look unmotivated. Despite the Rockets success, the Warriors are still the Warriors and they are still the team that came back from a 3-1 deficit before Kevin Durant joined the team. For now, the Warriors are still the team to beat. We can trust them because they have been there before and won 2 out of the last 3 titles. Can the Rockets beat the Warriors? The Rockets believe so but believing and doing are two different things. The Warriors don't speak about the Rockets as much as the Rockets discuss them but as the season winds down and the playoffs approach, it seems as though the Warriors will be forced to address the threat of the Rockets.