Barely one minute into Game 1 between the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors, Draymond Green was hit with a technical foul for shoving James Harden under the Rockets basket. When the team was up 12-4 with 9:08 left in the 1st quarter, I thought that we'd finally gotten over the hurdle of sluggish starts and playing catch up to get back into the game against the good teams. This is the Celtics, the coaching staff will have thought through how to attack when Thompson is on the floor, and the players will stick to the game plan with religious fervor. Now: Will he and his assistants feel they have to do that from Game 1 in this series?
Along the way came two more meetings in January, with Golden State winning the first and Houston winning the second.
However, he knows that his team is the perceived underdog in this series despite nabbing the top seed because of what the Warriors have done over the past few years. The Cavs are just 5-17 ATS and 12-10 this season when losing by 10 or more their previous game.
No, if you need to pinpoint the root of the Warriors' underachieving 58-win regular season, you should look toward this team's general sense of apathy and disinterest. The Cavs are coming off a four game sweep of the Toronto Raptors, defeating the "We the North" squad for the third straight season in the playoffs.
Question marks were raised about how two ball-dominant players could make it work on the same team when they've been the primary ball-handlers on their teams throughout their careers. The Rockets, who beat the Timberwolves in five games to advance, lost to the Spurs last season, and Utah was eliminated by Golden State.
While a team conceivably would like the easiest path possible to the championship round, the Warriors reportedly were hoping to meet the Rockets in the playoffs. Durant, who played just more than 40 minutes, was asked if he'd prefer to play the entire 48 minutes. If they beat the Celtics, they'll take on the victor of what should be a grueling Western Conference Finals. Now they all want to bring the Rockets their first National Basketball Association title since 1994 and 1995. But it didn't take long to become clear that Houston was the real challenge.
This new argument, though, is the most legitimate yet: Can James Harden and Chris Paul prove themselves superior to Curry and Thompson?
The Warriors-Rockets series, which is a rematch of the 2015 Western Conference Finals, starts Monday night at Houston.
Houston has a lot going for it in the Western Conference finals, including homecourt advantage, two legit superstars and a 2-1 record against the Warriors this season.
These are both tough series to call, but such is the playoffs. It's very likely that most-if not all-of the games in this series play out in a similar fashion, and it could very well come down to who performs better in the clutch. The Warriors should have more confidence than the Rockets heading into the series. Coach Mike D'Antoni can throw Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute at him over the course of each game, and you can expect all of them to try to deny him the ball, body him up and force him to take contested jumpers. One could make a point about outside shooting and if the Warriors went cold for consecutive games that would be enough to side with Houston.