Game Day Preview: Houston Rockets versus Golden State Warriors
If you were to pick two teams at completely opposite ends of the performance spectrum it would be the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors. While the Houston Rockets remain in play-off picture they are a far cry from the team who made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals last season. In fact it’s taken everything in their power to hold onto their seventh playoff seeding and that’s with the ninth highest salary in the Association.
Conversely their opponent this evening has only got better which is a mind boggling statement given they are the current NBA Champions. They are on pace to break the best season recorded by Michael Jordan’s Bulls actually ahead of that pace with 46 wins and just 4 losses and have yet to lose a game at home (23-0).
Dissecting the two teams’ rosters reveals similar talent, depth and payrolls, but the vast gap between where last season’s Western Conference Finalists are is night and day. Last season’s MVP Stephen Curry remains atop that very list and is the odds on bet to repeat this season. He’s joined by triple-double machine (and also dramatically improved) teammate Draymond Green.
Alternately the James Harden though still producing offensively is under constant scrutiny for what appears to be his decision to play sporadic defense. Further his off season request for a capable point guard is now almost deemed as a joke given he never allowed Lawson a chance to handle the ball. Factor in his inability to work in concert with Dwight Howard and his other teammates and you can see why so many H-Town fans are in a state of constant confusion and disappointment this season.
Entering the season the Houston Rockets said they had one thing and one thing only on their minds: the ‘pursuit’ of a title. Now as the All-Star Break looms at the end of the week the Rockets may have to adjust that desire to simply climbing to the fifth seed on the ladder. How crazy is it we’re at the point where just avoiding the top 3 teams (Warriors, Spurs, Thunder) to face the Clippers is considered a win?
To that end, let’s take a look at how the teams match-up:
Venue: Oracle Center
Game Time: 10:30 PM EST – 9:30 PM CT
TV: Nationally on TNT and ESPNR
Radio: 790 AM and KNBR 680 AM
Last season the Houston Rockets were swept by the Warriors in the regular season and in their one meeting this season the Warriors also won
- December 31st: GSW 114 – 110 HOU
- January 17th GSW 131-106 HOU
- December 10th HOU 93-105 GSW
- November 8th GSW 98 – 87 HOU
- Festus Ezeli, knee – out tonight, targeting return after All-Star Break
- James Michael McAdoo, toe – game time decision
- James Harden who fell awkwardly on the floor in the Portland game hurting his hand/finger is listed as a game time decision
- Terrence Jones – was in a car accident prior to Phoenix game and was diagnosed with a concussion, he is listed as a game time decision
- Sam Dekker – back surgery November 20 , out until March 1 minimum
- Donatas Motiejunas – back, game time decision
With the news Harden might not play it makes an already uphill battle even more daunting.
James Harden has ended 407 possessions this season with a 1-on-1 matchup—that’s 57 more than the Warriors as a TEAM pic.twitter.com/KfObNa2SY5
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 10, 2016
Keys to Winning:
- Paint a Picture: Take the ball to the paint early and often with the primary goal of scoring and secondary goal of getting Bogut and Green in early foul trouble. With no Ezeli, it leaves little help on the bench if the other power players get in foul trouble.
- Perimeter defense: Obviously with the Splash Brothers backed up by Barnes, Green and Iguodala’s ability to also score from deep this has to be an essential priority of the Rockets to control. The irony is the defense Houston employed last season to limit perimeter scoring and paint penetration is exactly what they need. The problem is if the Rockets can do that then why haven’t they been for 53 games this season?
- Transition Defense: the other critical portion of the defensive game plan is making sure the Warriors don’t leak out on fast breaks since the Warriors can combine transition with quick lay-ups and pull-up threes that could easily result in a 20 point lead in the blink of an eye.
- Maintain emotions – the Rockets all know how close they came last season and this season has gone according to plan for one team, it’s just not the Rockets. Hence they’ll need to maintain their emotions if Golden State jump on them.
More from Space City Scoop
- Robert Horry uses Rockets as cautionary tale for Lakers
- Houston Rockets: 2 pros and cons to re-signing Kelly Olynyk
- Why Tad Brown is the Rockets’ biggest loss to date
- Rockets legend in awe over Stephen Curry’s level of play
- Rockets fiasco shows importance of Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook
It’s no surprise the Warriors who are unbeaten at home are favored. Tonight the odds makers have them holding a healthy 14 point advantage with an over – under of 229.5 points. Also not surprisingly the early action is predominantly on Golden State.
Not knowing if Harden will play and even if he does how effective he’ll be makes this more a matter of will the Warriors win by 10, 20 or 30 plus. Sure the Houston Rockets who beat San Antonio could show up tonight, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
For more exciting news and stories on the Golden State Warriors visit our affiliate Fansided site: Blue Man Hoop
Plus check our our Preseason Team Preview of the Warriors:
And the Rockets preview:
With the trade deadline around the corner, make sure you visit Space City Scoop on a daily basis for our trade series. Each day, SCS will feature an article on who the Rockets should trade for or what it would take to part ways with the players currently on the roster. Finally, we’ll assess the Rockets and each team in the Association in terms of what their needs are, if they should be buyers or sellers, and also speculate on who would be the ideal trade target.