The Celtics rolled over Philadelphia in five games to reach the conference finals, and they got a massive series from Jayson Tatum. Golden State was also fifth in pace factor (possessions per game), and although Houston's slower (14th), we know Mike D'Antoni's team will fire from long distance (15.3 3s made per contest in the regular season, almost three more than the next team on the list, the Brooklyn Nets). "Steph, Klay, run around and knock down 3-balls, and Steph creating the pick-and-roll and penetrating; I like to get in in my sweet spot and go to work". Through the three games, the Warriors had a +1 advantage in scoring.
The Rockets may have beaten the Warriors twice during the regular season, but Houston must be aware that every team's performance is different in the playoffs. And now, with both teams having stayed on script by advancing to the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday, this story line comes full circle.
Chris Paul is an ultra-intense competitor, often the most passionate player on the court. In Game 3 against Utah, he dropped 25 points very efficiently and was a huge reason why the Rockets won. Paul was seen as a flawless point guard for head coach Mike D'Antoni's run-and-gun system, but how would he handle splitting ball-handling duties with Harden?
Kerr also singled out two players who are capable of guarding multiple positions.
"His movement wasn't as it had been, and I just didn't think that it was worth risking something that could be serious", New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said of leaving out Rondo the entire second half.
On a night when Harden went 7-for-22 from the field for 18 points - Paul later said Harden was under the weather - Paul did exactly what Houston brought him into do. Curry has played only four games since his return from injury, but he'll be one of the more crucial players in this series.
The Rockets were able to close out the series despite Harden, the front-runner for MVP, being under the weather. In fact, Kerr thought it was quite the opposite - once you get a taste of that ring, you just want another one. The Rockets lost to the Warriors in two straight playoffs. The old Rockets got destroyed by the Warriors in the playoffs twice - 2015 and 2016. "I can't just say I wanna take a Hall of Fame point guard and make him into something else". That Boston got to this point is incredible when you consider that they didn't have Irving and haven't had Gordon Hayward all season. But that Houston is even given a credible chance of doing so is an acknowledgment of how great the Rockets are, and how much fun this series could be.
"We played (the Rockets) in the conference finals in '15, and he was Dwight (Howard's) backup", Kerr said.