Troy Brinkel ’20
Mark Your Calendar
When the Houston Rockets traded for All-Star guard Chris Paul last June, most eyes were away一watching Oklahoma City’s trade for Paul George. The fact is, Paul’s trade almost went under the radar, clouded by the mass rupture in the Western Conference last offseason, but Paul has made it clear this season; his trade was franchise changing. Launching the Rockets to a 65 and 17 record, Houston now looks to be a promising contender for the NBA title. However, the road to the NBA finals will be very difficult for Houston as they must get passed the Golden State Warriors. Golden State -being the defending NBA Champions- were doused in injuries this year, especially to All-Star guard Stephen Curry. Some even question the possibility of Curry returning for the series.
Looking Past the Guards
Curry and Paul may be fundamental to each teams success, but some could argue the more important matchup will be James Harden and Kevin Durant. Harden- also known as “unguardable”- has racked up an impressive 30.4 PPG with his extremely efficient stepback fade. Harden is also known for being extremely competitive being the bigger half of the Paul Harden duo. Interviewee Dylan Knox even said, “Harden is extremely dangerous, especially behind the 3 point line.” However, Harden will not be the veteran in this series. Kevin Durant always has been, and always will be, a monumental challenge on defense for Harden. Durant technically plays the Power Forward being 6’9, but his presence of a three point threat has been killer to teams all season long. Durant is a very special player because of that skill, rarely does a player have the ability to drive the paint and post up, while still being able to hit 42% of his three point attempts. Hall-of-Fame guarantee, Lebron James was even bested by Durant’s performance in last year’s NBA finals.
Keys To Victory
What’s necessary for both teams to win this series? For the Rockets, it’s gonna be let Harden do his thing. Harden can especially be necessary on the road where his 3Pt% and 2Pt% are better than at home. If the Rockets can take even one game at Oracle Arena, we could be seeing a short season for the Warriors. Sophomore Darien Maynarich agreed with this idea by saying, “ Golden State needs to watch out, their previous stroll to the finals has become much more difficult with the power of Paul and Harden.” Let’s be real, is Golden State expecting a finals appearance? Yes, but they are more vulnerable right now than they have been in 4 years with Curry gone. The winning recipe for the Warriors is chef Curry himself. Curry needs to have a strong comeback, even though he hasn’t played in this year’s NBA playoffs yet. The Warriors’ Klay Thompson has been stepping in where Curry left hitting almost 60% of his 3Pt attempts during Curry’s absence. Thompson has also helped the Warriors seal the door on the Spurs by knocking down 11 of his 16 3Pt attempts in the 3rd and 4th quarter. This leaves a gap in star power for Houston; If Paul takes Curry, Houston has no star to take Thompson.
Author’s Opinion (Just my Opinion, not here to start a war)
Let me start off by saying this series is going to be one of the most exciting in years; Harden is a MVP candidate, Durant is hitting 42% of his 3Pt attempts, and Thompson has been dropping daggers so far in the playoffs. Curry is close to calling his time at Golden State a dynasty. If they win the finals this year, that will be 3 championships in 4 years. Houston, has a slick, fast, and aggressive team who has been very physical and chippy all year. Their only problem is a lack of star power. The Warriors easily have 4 Hall of Fame guarantees, while Houston only has 2. The loud crowd in Houston will let Houston take both games at home, I believe the Warriors will strike back hard going 4-1 in the following games. I believe Harden and Paul will give it their all but come up short at the very end especially with Thompson shooting the lights out.
Warriors in 7
Photo courtesy of Pintrest