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The Golden State Warriors are one series away from reaching the NBA Finals for the fourth season in a row. The Houston Rockets stand in their path, having denied the Warriors the number one seed in the Western Conference.
Mike D’Antoni’s men will have home-court advantage for the opening two matches of the Conference Finals and cannot afford to waste the opportunity to put the reigning champions under pressure. Houston won a franchise record 65 games over the course of the campaign to secure the top seed, with James Harden excelling once again. The 28-year-old will be the key man in his side’s battle to win their first title since 1995.
The Warriors will be in unfamiliar territory starting the series on the road. In each of the last three years they’ve held the number one seed in the Western Conference. They’ve been imperious once again in the post-season, easing past the San Antonio Spurs and the New Orleans Pelicans. However, the Rockets will be a tough nut to crack as proven by their rise to the top of the Conference.
Steph Curry and Kevin Durant have been operating at the peak of their powers once again. Both men will need to be on form through their series against the Rockets as D’Antoni’s men have more than enough quality to go score-for-score with Golden State.
We’ll now breakdown both sides’ journey to the series and their key men that will decide game one of the series.
The Rockets have been a contender in the Western Conference since the arrival of Harden in 2012. However, the club have not managed to get over the line and reach the NBA Finals. It is the second time in three years that they’ve reached the Conference Finals. Houston were defeated 4-1 by the Warriors in 2015 on their march towards the crown. The Rockets were dismissed by Curry and company once again in the first round in 2016, prompting the arrival of D’Antoni. Last term the franchise seemed to be the credible threat to Golden State, only to be beaten by the San Antonio Spurs in the Conference Semi-Finals. It’s their time to prove their worth in the Western Conference.
Harden has once again enjoyed an MVP-calibre campaign. The 28-year-old averaged a league-leading 30.4 points per game, while he also notched 8.8 assists per game – good enough to be third in the NBA behind only Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. He was the driving force behind their 65-win campaign and securing the top seed for the first time on franchise history. Harden has not enjoyed a playoff like surge of transcendent form like LeBron and Curry in the past. It his time to prove that he belongs in the conversation of the greatest players of the modern NBA.
They brushed aside the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round by a 4-1 scoreline. Harden opened the post-season with a 44-point outing and would dominate for the rest of the series. Unlike previous years he has a fine complement in the form of Chris Paul, who played a vital role in seeing off the Utah Jazz in the Semi-Finals. Between Paul and Clint Capela along with Trevor Gordon, Trevor Ariza and PJ Tucker there’s enough around Harden to ease the pressure on the All-Star. Getting off to a winning start is a must, especially on home soil.
The Warriors are aiming to create a dynasty in the NBA to match the greats of the past. The truly elite teams of the past were able to win successive titles – three on the bounce in the case of the Chicago Bulls (twice) and the Los Angeles Lakers. Steve Kerr played for the Bulls during their run and will be bullish that his side are capable of matching their feat. Golden State were already formidable, but the arrival of Durant has made them almost unbeatable over the course of a series. If Curry does get you, then Durant will. Add Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala into the mix it makes them almost unstoppable.
The Rockets will know that it will take a flawless set of performances to advance to the NBA Finals. Although Golden State have looked more human than they certainly did last season, losing 24 matches over the course of the campaign. Part of that has been down to injuries, with Curry limited to just 51 games this term after sustaining an MCL injury in March, while Durant also missed time. Curry missed the series against the Spurs, although given the fact that Kawhi Leonard was injured, it was more or less a walkover for Kerr’s men.
The point guard was back in action against the Pelicans and top scored with 28 points in the final game of the series. The Warriors are .500 on the road in the off-season, which could be crucial for the opening game. Compare to their record on home soil where they’ve won all six of their matches at Oracle Arena. They have the quality to blow away any team in the league, but will have to be wary of their fragilities, especially considering that the Rockets will enter the series without fear.
The Rockets have edged the series between the two sides this season, winning two to one. Their first victory came on the opening day of the term, securing a one-point win at Oracle Arena. Golden State were able to hit back with a comfortable triumph at the Target Center, but Houston responded in turn with an eight-point victory of their two weeks later. Worryingly for the Warriors their one win came when Harden was sidelined, while Gordon and Paul still put up points for the Rockets.
It should be a tight one, but Golden State have been vulnerable to allowing physical players dominate. Harden has similar scoring traits to LeBron, and will need to match his performances against the Warriors in the past to guide his side to victory. On home court, Harden needs to seize the initiative to win game one for his team and send them into the rest of the series with momentum. Back the Rockets to triumph at 87/100 1.87 -115 0.87 -1.15 0.87 with TopBet, while take the spread of -1.5 with Houston at 9/10 1.90 -111 0.90 -1.11 0.90 with BetVictor.
Houston Rockets To Beat Golden State Warriors Game One
Monday May 14th 2018 21:00 ET (Tuesday May 15th 2018 02:00 BST)
Odds: 87/100 1.87 -115 0.87 -1.15 0.87
Take -1.5 Spread Houston Rockets Game One
Monday May 14th 2018 21:00 ET (Tuesday May 15th 2018 02:00 BST)
Odds: 9/10 1.90 -111 0.90 -1.11 0.90
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