After a season of intrigue and parity, the NBA’s Final Four are down to the top two seed in each respective conference. That isn’t to say that if you had Golden State, Houston, Atlanta and Cleveland as your top four in the preseason you aren’t a clairvoyant genius, but from a purely seeding perspective, things are exactly where they are supposed to be.
So will form hold from here? Are we really ready for a world where the Atlanta Hawks are in the NBA Finals?? We can deal with that issue tomorrow. For now, let’s dive into the Western Conference Finals and tonight’s opening game in Oakland at the Roaricle.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Western Conference Finals – Game One
Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors -10
Remember when James Harden rather famously was overheard saying the Warriors aren’t that good? Suffice it to say his tone has changed drastically as the respectful MVP runner-up had nothing but praise for the Warriors to the media before the series. Whether that is maturity, gamesmanship, or even a dash of humility from the 0-4 regular season performance against the Warriors, The Beard is playing it low-key heading into the series. But you KNOW this means even MORE to him after coming in second in the MVP balloting (and apparently pouting about it) to Steph Curry.
But does meaning more mean his team can actually pick off the Warriors? They failed in four attempts this season and lost every single matchup by double digits.
Going position by position, it is hard not to favor the Warriors. Their backcourt is such a ridiculous mismatch its scarcely even worth discussing. Sure, I’d give James Harden the edge at the small forward position, but even Dwight Howard, despite the much bigger name and history, isn’t a huge advantage over Draymond Green. The bench for Houston was key in their remarkable comeback against the Clippers, but Golden State has a lot more depth than LAC, so expect that edge to be less pronounced. The Warriors didn’t win all four games this season by double figures on accident…
I think the Warriors win this series in five games. They are a lot better than Houston and are certainly more rested at this point. Houston could very well be gassed tonight after a draining and emotional series that just ended scarcely 48 hours ago. That quick turnaround is tough in the regular season on a random Tuesday in Minnesota. It’s especially tough tonight in Game One of the Western Conference Finals at what is sure to be an INSANE Oracle Arena. Remember how bananas that place was in the opening round upset of Mavs with Baron Davis leading the charge about seven years ago? Magnify that by five for tonight. It is going to be loud and intense. It’s hard to see the Warriors not riding the crowd, the rest advantage, and frankly the “better team” advantage to success tonight.
Ten points is a lot to lay down, but we’ve seen these Rockets lay it down when the lead gets large more than a few times this postseason. Game Two may very well be a competitive affair, but for tonight, I think the Warriors roll.