By Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley, AFRO Sports Desk
The NBA doesn’t want fans to consider the Houston and Golden State series as the real NBA Finals, but it’s hard not to. The Rockets and Warriors have been the two most impressive teams this season and in a series that will be equipped with three in-their-prime MVPs, this could emerge as one of the more memorable playoff series of the last few years. Or will it? The Rockets are improved, setting a team record for most wins in a season, but since collapsing to the Cleveland Cavaliers after dropping a 3-1 lead in the 2015 Finals, the Warriors are 24-3 over the past two postseasons. It could go either or one way. Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO SportsDesk debate.
Riley: Yawn, another snoozer for the Warriors that’ll end in five games. Houston has played well but a Golden State can’t be beaten when fully healthy and their roster just welcomed back Stephen Curry last round. Curry’s gotten some of the rust off and Golden State looked closed to flawless against MVP-caliber Anthony Davis and New Orleans. Two perennial player-of-the-year candidates in Curry and Kevin Durant flanked by two perennial all-stars in Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Golden State will demolish Houston.
Green: The Warriors are top-heavy in their rotation but I don’t think they run a better team flow than the 10-man rotation that the Rockets have. Playoffs come down to depth when the two starting fives are evenly matched and Houston offers a lot of firepower off the bench that golden State doesn’t have. Guards like Eric Gordon and Gerald Green afford the Rockets a chance to keep the pace in Golden State’s hectic tempo. This Rockets team has been carefully constructed to withstand the Warriors’ bullying. It doesn’t hurt that the Rockets have home court advantage too.
Riley: I actually like the Rockets’ bench better, but there’s no getting around the starting lineup that makes Golden State so deadly. Acquiring Durant meant sacrificing some depth, but it was well worth it. Durant’s presence just creates spacing for the Warriors’ offense to function. His height and versatility give the Warriors the ultimate chess piece that can do everything on offense and guard the most active wingmen and front court players. Add that aspect to everything else the Warriors did before they added Durant and it’s the ultimate video game team. And for the record: Houston’s starting five isn’t “evenly matched” with Golden State’s. The Warriors legitimately have three guys that can explode for 30-points-plus at any moment. If the Warriors can contain Harden, then it’s game over.
Green: Harden is the scorer but the point guard/center combo of Chris Paul and Clint Capela give them a steady presence that the Warriors can’t match. Capela has the opportunity to make a name for himself if he can stay active in the paint against Golden State. The Warriors don’t have an active center who can match Capela’s skill and Paul’s cool hand keeps turnovers to a minimum which is what the Warriors thrive on. The Warriors forced the most turnovers in the league last year on their way to the title but Houston has led the postseason in fewest turnovers per game. The Rockets can pound the paint, run and defend, they form the ultimate opponent against the Warriors and perhaps our last chance to stop complete Golden State dominance.