Tuesday, May 19, 2015

2015 NBA Playoffs - Western Conference Finals

#1 Golden State Warriors vs. #2 Houston Rockets

Both the Warriors and Rockets faced adversity in the Conference Semi-Finals, but overcame series deficits to reach the Western Conference Finals. After losing two straight to Memphis to go down 2-1, the Warriors ripped off three wins in a row, including two on the Grizzlies homecourt. The Rockets appeared dead in the water after being blown out in LA two straight games, to go down 3-1 in that series. But they won Game 5 at home and then overcame a 19 point deficit in the third quarter at LA to win Game 6, before dominating the Clippers in Game 7 to close out the series.

This series will pit two of the best players in the game right now on opposite sides. You have the Warriors MVP point guard Steph Curry and then you have the Rockets team MVP shooting guard James Harden. Harden has been blasted in the past for his lack of defense, but he will be forced to work on the defensive end when he faces up against Klay Thompson. If not Thompson is going to kill the Rockets. The difference maker in this series will be which Dwight Howard shows up for Houston. Howard will have the definite matchup advantage against Andrew Bogut and if he has some of that old Dwight in him he could be downright dominant. The other matchups are pretty even as Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala will be mixing it up with Trevor Ariza, Josh Smith and Terrence Jones.

Both teams have mostly settled on an 8 man rotation in the playoffs and for the Rockets, guards Pablo Prigioni and Corey Brewer have provided valuable minutes. Golden State gets strong bench minutes from PG Shaun Livingston and Iguodala. David Lee is a shell of his former self and plays limited minutes off the bench, so any contribution he makes this series would be a bonus.

The strong defense of the Memphis Grizzlies wasn't enough to beat Golden State and if Houston tries to just outscore Golden State they have no prayer of winning this series. The Rockets are not a very good defensive team outside of Ariza and Howard, and as mentioned above Howard isn't the player either offensively or defensively that he used to be. Houston will certainly give the Warriors a challenge and I think they can definitely steal one game at Oracle Arena, but I can't picture them having the personnel necessary to take four games from Golden State. If they had the Howard of 2009 then I might be tempted to pick them but Harden alone isn't enough to beat a team as good and well coached as Golden State. The Warriors will win this series and reach their first NBA Finals in 40 years.

Prediction: Warriors over Rockets, 4-2

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