It is not a stretch to say the Rockets might have an even better chance to beat the Warriors now than they did last season.
James Harden is playing at an absurd, unstoppable, Jordan-esque level. This could be Houston’s year, so long as they don’t go cold from three-point range. They have absolutely dominated the Jazz so far in their first round series, with all signs pointing toward a matchup against the Warriors in the second round.
Golden State will be down a star or two each game in these playoffs and they have looked vulnerable at times against the Clippers, as they blew a 31-point lead in game two and lost by four. The Warriors will probably be more motivated the rest of the series, but the Clippers proved Golden State is nowhere near unbeatable.
The Warriors’ chemistry has looked a little bit off almost the entire season which could lead to a playoff exit — something that could potentially mean the end of their dynasty. There are already rumors that Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson are leaving in free agency this upcoming offseason.
The Warriors are still the best team for now as they will have at least three All-Stars playing, but things will go south if they can’t get their act together.
Outside of the New England Patriots, the Warriors have to be the luckiest team ever. Over the past five years, numerous teams had star players get injured against the Warriors, or right before their series (see past injuries to: Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul and Kawhi Leonard.) It honestly angers me how they have been the beneficiary of so many fortunate circumstances.
In order for Houston to dethrone Golden State, just about everything will need to go their way, which it certainly did not last year. Chris Paul, Eric Gordon and Clint Capela all need to be playing their best if the Rockets want to go on a deep playoff run, and they have so far.
Harden will need to control the tempo and be able to draw fouls on a regular basis, which he usually does, but the refs generally handle the playoffs differently and allow more contact. He will also have to put up over 30 points-per-game for them to stand a chance. The Rockets will need to limit their turnovers and play their toughest defense to beat the reigning champs.
Houston has a legitimate chance to do the unthinkable. They are hungry and desperate for a chance at revenge. They know what it takes to pull off the upset; it’s just a matter of executing their game plans. I would say they are in an even better position to win this year as they are firing on all cylinders and are healthy. Let’s just hope that the Warriors don’t snap out of the funk they are in.
Sean Blevins is a columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.