OAKLAND — The Western Conference Finals that we’ve talked about ad nauseum since the All-Star Break is finally set, and boy, it should be a barn burner.
After the Golden State Warriors ended the New Orleans Pelicans’ season Tuesday night with a 113-104 win, hours after the Houston Rockets dispatched the Utah Jazz in five games, it’ll be the Warriors and Rockets playing for Western Conference supremacy.
Many are calling this Western Conference showdown the real NBA Finals, something I’m not going to disagree with.
Sure, you can play the “it’s a rematch of the 2015 Western Conference Finals” card, but this is a different Rockets team, one that is admittedly obsessed with beating the Warriors.
The heart and soul of the Warriors, Draymond Green, doesn’t feel the same way about the Rockets.
“They have made it known that their team is built to beat us,” Green said. “Their obsession, or whatever you want to call it, it is what it is … That stuff has been said for about a year now. It’s time to play.”
For the first time under head coach Steve Kerr, the Warriors won’t have home court advantage, which has many basketball pundits thinking the Rockets — who owned the best record in the NBA this season — can knock off the defending champs.
Some point to the Rockets winning two out of three in the regular season. Some point to the addition of Chris Paul. It’s the toughness Mike D’Antoni and company have added, though, that should make this matchup scintillating.
How will the Rockets combat the Warriors “Hamptons 5” lineup? How will the Warriors defend the Rockets’ constant pick-and-roll action?
According to Micah Adams of NBA at ESPN Stats & Info, this Western Conference Final would feature the best offensive matchup in modern NBA postseason history.
There has never been a playoff series pitting teams that both finished with an offensive rating of 112 or better. Going into their respective Game 5’s, the Warriors had an offensive rating of 112.24, the Rockets 112.23.
Back on Jan. 20, after the Rockets defeated the Warriors 116-108, Rockets center Clint Capela didn’t mince words: He claimed they were the better team.
Kevin Durant — who had 24 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds in the Warriors closeout game against the Pelicans — clapped back at Capela with this response:
“You hear that from guys like Capela, who’s usually catching the ball or laying it up from CP or Harden,” Durant said. “His job is not as hard. I mean when your job is that hard you don’t say s— like that.”
Game 1 is Monday night and the basketball world will be waiting, including Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry, who said afterwards that he thinks it’s going to be a great series.
The Warriors will need their stars to be super, and they were in Game 5 as Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Green accounted for 94 of the Warriors’ 113 total points.
This deep into this column, and I still haven’t discussed Thompson’s assignment on James Harden, Curry and Chris Paul battling, and Green trying to keep Capela from dominating the paint. This is going to be a lot of fun.
“I think both teams are looking forward to the matchup,” said the Warriors Swiss Army knife Andre Iguodala. “Going to be a lot of intensity. Both teams have a lot of characters. Should be good for viewership.”
Indeed Andre. Indeed.
Bonta Hill of 95.7 The Game can be heard from noon to 3 p.m. on the Greg Papa Show. Born and bred in San Francisco, he is a sports junkie who loves to sit in the lab (home), eats breakfast food for dinner and has a newfound love for tequila. Follow at your own risk on Twitter @BontaHill. Andre IguodalaDraymond GreenGolden State WarriorsHouston RocketsNBA PlayoffsSteph CurryStephen CurryWarriorsWestern Conference FinalsWestern Conference Semifinals