It’s the series everyone has been waiting for.
The matchup between the Warriors and Rockets promises to be one of the best of the playoffs. Both teams are considered contenders to take home the championship and feature star players throughout their lineups.
Golden State and Houston met in the Western Conference finals last season. The Rockets held a 3-2 lead before Chris Paul suffered a hamstring injury and missed the rest of the series. The Warriors won the final two games and went on to capture their second straight championship.
“Well, I thought we had a great crack last year, so I don’t know — we’ll see,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told The Athletic last month. “I’m confident, as I was when we were 11-14, that we’ll give them a run. … Now they might beat us. They’re the best team. They’re the champs right now. They’ve proven it, and they’ve got nothing to prove.”
Here are three things that could decide the series this time around:
Clint Capela’s ability to stay on the floor
Clint Capela can be a game changer for the Rockets.
The 6-10 center is a strong rebounder and finisher around the basket. He can also protect the rim, as he averaged 1.5 blocks this season.
The Warriors don’t have any true center who could match up with Capela. However, they can counter with their “death lineup,” which features Draymond Green at the pivot. That group can switch at almost every position and plays fast.
The small lineup could give Capela problems, which could force him to the bench if the Rockets decide to answer with one of their own.
But, if Capela finds a way to stay on the floor and keep up with Green, he has a chance to be a difference maker for Houston.
Warriors’ fatigue level
The Rockets easily took care of the Jazz in five games in their opening series. The Warriors, on the other hand, surprisingly struggled at times against the Clippers before eventually moving on to Round 2.
That means Houston has had extra time to rest, recover and prepare to face the two-time defending champions while Golden State has had to expend more energy than they’re accustomed to in the first round.
The Warriors have the more talented roster, but there’s a chance fatigue could slow them down and play a role in this series.
Rockets’ role players
The players surrounding Rockets stars James Harden, Paul and Capela have changed since the last time these teams met in the playoffs.
Houston has added guard Austin Rivers, wing Danuel House Jr. and forward Kenneth Faried since last season. It’ll need those role players, along with PJ Tucker and Eric Gordon, to contribute on both ends of the floor if it wants to win the series.
The Warriors have multiple dynamic stars, which makes them difficult to match up with. But, the Rockets should have the versatility to slow them down.