The Rockets also match up fairly well with the Warriors as they've acquired a strong crop of wing defenders and one of the best point guard defenders in league history in CP3. Curry has been shooting an electric 47.8% from the field, including 44.1% from deep. But on the road, Thompson is making only 33.3 percent of his 3s and Iguodala just 27.3 percent.
Defending the Warriors presents a multitude of challenges, starting with Durant. He could still be injured. Now they begin the series in Houston, which was so unusual to the Warriors that some players reportedly booked the wrong plane tickets for family members.
On hand are Splash Brothers and point guards with Hall of Fame credentials sharing a backcourt; an MVP and Sixth Man of the Year; a versatilely skilled forward and a burgeoning big primed for a pay raise. He shot 41.9 percent on 3s during the season and is shooting 60.9 percent from midrange in the playoffs.
Harden likes to isolate on offense. Houston - which runs high pick-and-rolls on nearly every possession - will try to attack Curry, the worst defender in a starting lineup loaded with defensive stalwarts. If they win Game 1, it makes Game 2 a must-win for the Rockets.
Fortunately, the Rockets were knocking down their threes, as they made an average of 15.3 per game, while the Nets (12.7) and Cleveland Cavaliers (12) were the next-closest teams. Their regular season record, impressive though it would be for most of the league, was well below expectations due to injury and lack of effort more than anything.
Perhaps because Harden is facing better defenders, and perhaps because officials allow more contact and call fewer fouls in playoffs. The Warriors will be waiting to strike in Game 1, but if the Rockets can win on Monday, it could give them a huge mental lift.
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And they've been the two best defensive teams in the playoffs, holding their four opponents to at least five points per 100 possessions under their regular season marks.
He also got to the free throw line less against the Warriors, going 3-for-4 back October 17th and 1-for-2 back January 20th. And that's important against Harden.
In Game 1 against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Jazz, Paul turned the ball over a combined 13 times. But in two games against the Warriors, he attempted only six foul shots. Their offensive foundation is isolation out of the pick-and-roll, with Harden and Paul exploiting matchups off the dribble or feeding teammates camped behind the arc.
But the Rockets are here, and they're a genuine obstacle to the Warriors repeating as champions. Five games into the series, you'll see a difference in the help around the Cavaliers star, signaling a turn in the seven-game set. Their 2016 finals collapse was largely due to Curry not being at 100%. The numbers say he's diminished. Curry has been outstanding since returning from injury, and getting the gang of Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green healthy enough for another Finals run might be just enough to put the team over the top.
The Houston coach has said most everybody doubted his system, but the game has evolved. He has become one-dimensional. He is also averaging 5.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals.