Western Conference Finals Preview

After coming back from 3-1 deficit to knock off the Chris Paul-led
Clippers, the Houston Rockets advanced to the Western Conference
Finals for the first time since 1997. Their opponent will be the red
hot number 1 seeded Golden State Warriors, led by the MVP, Stephen
Curry. James Harden, the runner-up to MVP vs Curry should provide a
great match-up to what will be a fast paced, exciting Western
Conference Finals.

During the regular season, the Warriors dominated the Rockets, going
4-0 against them and winning each game by double digits. Granted, the
Rockets were not at all healthy for about two of those games. However,
with both teams fully healthy on January 21, the Dubs dismantled the
Rockets 126-113. On paper, this match-up favors the Warriors heavily.
However, as Memphis showed, smothering defense can hurt the Dubs at
times. With this being said, Houston simply doesn’t have the defensive stoppers that
Memphis had, in Tony Allen and Mike Conley. The Warriors X-Factor will
be Klay Thompson. If Klay can get going on the offensive end, Houston
will have a tough time guarding Curry and Klay, while also having to
worry about Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green being able to stretch
the floor. That leads us to Houston’s X-Factor: Trevor Ariza. Ariza
will likely draw the defensive assignment against the MVP. While Ariza’s length
should not be an issue for Steph, with his ability to handle the ball,
Ariza can get into Steph’s head and maybe force him into taking bad
shots, getting him out of rhythm and making him have a bad night.
Ariza’s ability on the offensive end, could also become an issue for
the Dubs. He has to be a floor spacing threat on the other end. If
Houston’s surrounding cast fails to show up, the load falls on Harden,
who quite frankly can’t do it all, against the best defensive team in
the league.

The Warriors bench is also much stronger than the Rockets bench. The
return of Mo Speights gives the Warriors more offense, and more
scorers off the bench. At times, Andre Iguodala will be defending
Harden, and he, along with Klay, is more than capable of giving Harden
a tough time of the offensive side of the ball. Another potential
strategy for the Dubs would be to use David Lee, essentially as a
pawn, on postups against Dwight Howard, and force him into foul
trouble.

With a defensive rating of 98.8 during the postseason, the Dubs have
been significantly better than the Rockets, whose rating is currently
at 106.8. If the Rockets want to get into a shootout, that style
favors the Warriors immensely, and they may be playing right into the
Dubs hands. The Warriors have also shown that they are capable of
winning a slow, grind it out sort of game, which they were able to do
against the Grizz. Another key will be turnovers, if the Warriors are
able to capitalize off of Houston’s turnovers, things could get ugly.
The same idea applies vice versa, so if the Dubs get careless with the
ball, the Rockets can stretch the floor, and could create a large
lead.

Final Prediction: Warriors in 6. Defense wins championships, and the
Warriors have the best defense left in the playoffs right now. Klay
Thompson will be able to slow down Harden, and Andrew Bogut will
contain Dwight Howard, who tends to disappear at times.

Series MVP: Klay Thompson

Thompson will be the series MVP because he will contain Harden, which is obviously crucial, and I also think he will lead the series in scoring. He’s been in a small funk, due to carelessness and bad shot selection, but I feel like that’s gonna end this series. With the reemergence of Thompson, the Warriors have very few opponents who can match their talent and depth making for their path to their first finals appearance since 1967, one with very few obstacles.

Written by: Ashvin Muddappa

Edited by: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17

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