By Pete Ruden
It’s an interesting time in the NBA right now. For the first time since 2015, it’s not automatically going to be a Golden State Warriors-Cleveland Cavaliers matchup in the NBA Finals.
With LeBron James’ Cavs getting smacked by 18 in Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers and Steph Curry still sitting out for the Dubs, the Larry O’Brien Trophy is finally up for grabs.
Even though it’s not set in stone like previous years, the Warriors are still going to end up with rings on their fingers.
Let’s not forget the Warriors are still a super-team even without their star point guard. Kevin Durant alone makes Golden State a challenge in a seven-game series. Throw Klay Thompson in there, and that team could rain 3-pointers from anywhere on the floor. Also add Draymond Green and, despite a down year, the defense instantly gets better and complements an astounding offense.
Curry, who suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee on March 23, is targeting a return during the Western Conference semifinals, according to Shams Charania. Getting arguably the most electric player in the league to make a stacked roster even better has “championship” written all over it.
Believe me, I’m tired of the Warriors dynasty, too. I would love to see James Harden and Chris Paul rip Golden State apart. While I still believe that’s a possibility, the Warriors have too strong of a core to go down that easily.
Love them or hate them, the Warriors are taking a page out of Drake’s book and going back-to-back.
By Adam Hensley
I could sit here and say that James Harden is the MVP (he’s not, LeBron James is, but I refuse to go into that rant, for now), or how Chris Paul is the best point guard of the modern era (he’s not either), but when it comes down to Houston’s biggest strength, it’s the system head coach Mike D’Antoni runs.
D’Antoni utilizes a run-and-gun offense, one that can gouge opponents from all areas of the court.
D’Antoni finally, finally has a group of players perfect for his scheme. It didn’t work in Los Angeles during those funky Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Dwight Howard days, but it’s clicking now and showing no signs of stopping.
The Rockets made an average of 15.3 3-pointers during the regular season – nearly 3 3-pointer more per game than Brooklyn, the second-best team in that category.
Led by Harden, the Rockets attack the basket just as much as they fire from deep. Houston ranks second in free-throw makes per game (19.6) and third in attempts from the stripe (25.1). When fouls pile up against the Rockets’ foes, it doesn’t bode well at all.
But forget the big names. Every playoff team has all-star caliber players on its squad. Where Houston burns people is in the non-household names.
Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, and Gerald Green provide a perfect compliment to the duo of Harden and Paul.
Capela is the most underrated big man in the league, hands down. He’s on track to earn some big man money this offseason, too. Capela quietly averaged a double-double during the regular season (13.9 points per game, 10.8 rebounds).
Meanwhile, Gordon, Anderson, and Green all shoot better than 35 percent from downtown. Anderson ranks second on the team, canning 38.6 percent of his attempts from deep.
This is arguably the most balanced team in the league. Even Golden State will have issues keeping up with the Rockets. Put your money on H-Town to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in June.