The NBA Western Conference Finals features the two top seeded teams in the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets. Even though they were considered the favorites to make it this far based on their regular season records, each team faced some tough tasks to reach these conference finals.
For Houston, they fought back from a 1% chance of winning game 6 against the Los Angeles Clippers in a home close out clash. After being down 19 points in this game and being down 3-1 in the series, the Rockets’ bench propelled them into a decisive 7th game at home and eventually a series win. James Harden and Dwight Howard played inconsistent throughout that series, but showed up in the clutch moments and did enough to help their team advance.
On the other side of things, the Golden State Warriors squared off against a feisty Memphis Grizzlies team in the previous round. The Griz took a 2-1 series lead behind the strength of their fearless leader, Mike Conley who was sporting a broken face. That hiccup was brief however, and Golden State quickly returned to their hot shooting and stout defensive form advancing 4-2.
When the Rockets and Warriors face off tonight, the league’s top two MVP candidates will take the floor in Stephen Curry and James Harden. These are certainly the marquee players for each team, but it will the rest of the roster that will decide the fate of this series. For Houston to win, they need the bench and role players to continue their energetic play as of late. If players like Trevor Ariza, Josh Smith, and Corey Brewer have big games in this series, Houston will be in every game. Dwight Howard must also be aggressive without fouling, a task that has proved difficult for him this post season. He needs to stay on the floor and put pressure on the Warriors’ frontcourt.
The Warriors simply need to play how they have played all season long. Hot shooting and crisp ball movement combined with stifling defense has been the key to success in a 67 win regular season. Draymond Green is the x factor here. His passing and shooting can cause issues for a defense especially against other forwards. On the other end, he can keep big men that are much larger than he is in check.
In the end, I don’t think Houston will get the same bench play in this series and the Warriors are the better team. The Warriors have a bench that was much deeper than what the Clippers played with in the last round. They will be able to come in and give Golden State’s starters some rest without compromising talent. It’s unlikely that you will see the fatigue and cold streaks that plagued the Clippers and that spells disaster for Houston.