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Houston Rockets Game Preview: Round Three vs. Warriors

Jan 20, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) controls the ball as Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) defends during the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 20, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) controls the ball as Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) defends during the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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The Houston Rockets will have two chances to beat the league’s best team before the week’s up, starting with hosting the Warriors tonight.

Back in December, the Houston Rockets beat the Golden State Warriors in double-overtime. It was one of the best wins of the entire season, and made the statement that the Rockets were not to be taken lightly. Then, in their second contest, the Warriors won by a decisive 17 points. Tonight should be interesting to say the least.

Several things are different now from the two teams’ previous meetings. The first and most obvious is the absence of Kevin Durant. Before his unfortunate knee injury, the Slim Reaper was right in the midst of the MVP discussion as the poster-boy for the “best player on the best team” argument. He posted game-highs in scoring in both the December and January games, and helped hold James Harden to just 17 points in the latter.

When he first got hurt, the Warriors struggled. They went 2-5 during the first seven games sans-Durant. They’ve figured it out since then, however, and now have won seven games in a row. Steph Curry has looked a lot like last season’s Steph Curry, and the Warriors are as dangerous as ever.

The second difference is that Ryan Anderson is out this time around. After putting up a huge 29 points in the Rockets’ win against the Warriors, he went scoreless in January in only 9 minutes of floor time.

D'Antoni said two weeks for Anderson to return. Will be cautious.

— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) March 26, 2017

Anderson’s absence will be tough to deal with for a couple of reasons. The first is that he helps space the floor for Houston, opening up driving and passing lanes for the Beard. Without him, the Warriors will be more able to pack the paint and challenge layups.

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The second reason the Rockets will miss Ryno is for his offensive rebounding. Golden State is in the bottom five teams in the league in defensive rebounding rate, and Houston will need to capitalize on that weakness if they want to come away victorious.

Tonight’s last major difference from the teams’ first two matchups is Houston’s addition of Lou Williams. He’s been inconsistent for much of his tenure in a Rockets uniform so far, but is capable of stuffing the stat sheet on any given night. Daryl Morey said recently that they’d try to beat the Warriors by outshooting them, and Lou helps significantly in that department.

All things considered, tonight’s game could go either way. The Warriors have a better record, but Houston’s offense is just as lethal. The two teams actually boast the league’s top two offenses, so that makes for an exciting game.

The only thing that lessens the hype for tonight is the fact that both teams are fairly locked into their playoff spot. It would more fun if there were more on the line, but the fact of the matter is that the Western Conference’s top three seeds probably won’t change. Still, though, this is a game that the Rockets will want to to win. It’ll go a long way in the MVP discussion if Harden leads his team to victory over the predicted champions.

Next: 3-on-3 Discussion: Hypothetical Questions

No matter how the game goes tonight, the Houston Rockets have another chance to beat the Warriors on Friday. Now that’s quite a week of NBA basketball.

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