For Golden State Warriors, Conference Finals Should Be a Breeze


Last round, the Houston Rockets did something pretty special.

They clawed back from a 3-1 deficit, becoming only the ninth team to ever do so. They mounted a miraculous 19-point comeback in Game 6, mostly without James Harden. And, they earned their first trip to the Western Conference Finals since 1997.

So I guess one could say their confidence is at an all time high.

Which makes it such a shame that the Golden State Warriors are going to end up dominating them for the next week and a half or so as they make it to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1976.

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Bold statement, I know.

But when looking at how the Dubs performed against a Memphis Grizzlies team that supposedly had the best shot of knocking them out of the Western Conference side of the bracket, it’s hard to imagine the Rockets faring any better, especially considering that their style of play lends itself to Golden State’s success.

In the Western Conference Semifinal, we saw the Warriors struggle quite uncharacteristically in Games 2 and 3 because of the Grizzlies’ ability to slow the game down to a near methodical pace. Though Memphis managed to score 21 fastbreak points in Game 2, many of those came off of Golden State’s 20 turnovers, not because of Mike Conley and Co. pushing the pace all game. Plus, with Mr. First Team All-Defense on the perimeter, the Grizzlies were able to turn Klay Thompson into a non-factor.

And in their Game 3 win, Memphis was able to punish Golden State on the block, as Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph combined for 43 of the Grizzlies’ points, while also holding the Warriors to only 36 points in the paint, a far cry from the 45 they averaged in the regular season.

Despite dominating the paint in their two wins, Marc Gasol and the Memphis Grizzlies just weren’t good enough to beat the Warriors in the second round. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

How Memphis played in their two wins is exactly how opponents need to play if they want a shot at beating the Warriors. They controlled the pace, locked down the paint, and capitalized on Golden State’s mistakes. Yet, after six games, it was Golden State who won their four games by a combined 65 points and it was Memphis who failed to crack 100 points all series long. Despite having all the components to slowing down the 67-win machine that is Golden State, the Memphis Grizzlies failed– pretty badly.

So do you really think that the Houston Rockets (who got dominated in all four regular season games by the Warriors), have a shot at winning the series?

I’m gonna say no.

Unlike Memphis, the Rockets live by getting out on the break and jacking a lot of threes. And that’s exactly what the Warriors are one of the best teams ever at doing. In their regular season matchups, Houston tried (and failed) to keep pace with Golden State, allowing 110, 131 and 126 points in three of the four games played. And though Dwight Howard did miss the first two matchups, in the two games he did play in, the Warriors hung 38 points on the Rockets in the third quarter one time, and beat Houston so bad that James Harden said afterwards that “They bullied us tonight,” the other.

Combine those regular season showings with injuries to defensive ace Patrick Beverly and stretch-four Donatas Motiejunas, and the Rockets’ chances look even more bleak.

James Harden and the Rockets can’t get “bullied” again if they expect to have any shot in the Western Conference Finals Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Without their starting point guard and power forward, the Rockets have struggled to consistently get quality shots in the more half court oriented postseason, a problem that was a major reason Houston even fell behind 3-1 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the last round. As a result, they’ve been forced to push the pace much more to try and get easy shots, resulting in their playoff leading PACE Factor of 104.8.

Meanwhile, Golden State has drastically slowed the game down, going from their league leading 100.7 PACE Factor in the regular season, all the way down to 94.3 (good for only 13th out of 16 teams). Yet, their offensive efficiency of 107.4 is second behind only the Cleveland Cavaliers; proof that Golden State’s success isn’t entirely predicated on fastbreak buckets.

Because of Golden State’s versatility and depth, strategizing against them is near impossible. They can out run you, as they proved to the New Orleans Pelicans, and they can out half-court you, as they just proved to the Memphis Grizzlies. And while Kevin McHale has made plenty of savvy coaching decisions over the course of this postseason alone, it’s pretty clear that him and his Houston Rockets are in over their head.

If he tries to out run and out gun the Warriors, then Stephen Curry is almost certainly going to make it rain (especially with Pablo Prigioni or Jason Terry likely guarding him all series). And if he decides to take it slow and try to pick apart Golden State’s half court defense, then the Rockets’ lack of offensive discipline will get exposed, just as it did last series.

For the Warriors, its a win-win. For Houston?

Not so much.

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