The Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors have met in the playoffs four times over the past five seasons, with the Warriors winning all four times. It’s a safe bet, though, that the teams won’t meet again in the postseason this year.
Houston has had an OK season and is fifth in the Western Conference with a 34-20 record behind impressive seasons from James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Golden State has lost all the best players from last year’s squad due to free agency, trade or injury, and the team is last in the NBA with a 12-43 record. Stephen Curry is on track to return next week, but the Warriors have an extremely inexperienced roster on the court at the moment.
Both teams have shaken up their rosters in the past few weeks and will look to find their footing against each other in their first game back from the All-Star break today (10:30 p.m. ET Thursday on TNT).
In this NBA game preview, we will focus on key questions surrounding the game and then recommend our Houston Rockets vs Golden State Warriors predictions against the sportsbooks’ USA betting lines.
Can Rockets’ New Additions Provide Something Positive?
The Rockets’ roster now includes three players who have yet to play a minute with the team: DeMarre Carroll, Jeff Green and Bruno Caboclo. Carroll was a buyout market signing, Green is on a 10-day contract with the team and Caboclo was acquired at the trade deadline but is just now getting healed from a knee injury.
The signings of all three indicate the Rockets’ confidence in rolling with small-ball for basically the entire game. All three guys are 6’8” or 6’9” with defensive versatility and a bit of three-point shooting ability. They have all spent most of their career as big wings, but the Rockets will probably utilize them at the 4 or 5 position.
One of Houston’s key potential weaknesses is depth. All three of the team’s new additions can help the Rockets by chipping in with a handful of high-energy minutes in each game. Will Carroll, Green and Caboclo provide any sort of lift in this contest?
Can Warriors Win Turnover Battle?
The Warriors’ big strength as a team is that they often win the turnover battle. Golden State ranks an average 15th in offensive turnover rate, but the team is fourth in forcing opponent turnovers.
Houston does tend to protect the ball pretty well, as its offense generally revolves around a lot of isolations for Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Those two players do combine for nearly nine turnovers per game, but that’s not such a bad number considering that the ball is almost always in their hands.
Golden State needs its ever-changing rotation to play with defensive activity and instincts to get out in transition. On the other end, the Warriors will have to be careful that Houston’s quick, versatile lineups don’t force plenty of steals of its own.
Will Jordan Poole Do Enough on Offense to Make Rockets’ Star Guards Work?
Poole, a rookie guard for the Warriors, has been one of the worst players in the NBA this season. He is the first player in 49 years to take more than 400 field-goal attempts in a single season and have a field-goal percentage below 30. He’s at 29.5 percent. There is still plenty of time for Poole to improve, but at the moment, he is an ineffective NBA player.
Unfortunately, he’s a starting guard for a Warriors team going up against All-Stars Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Harden is the NBA’s top scorer at 35.3 points per game and Westbrook has averaged 34 points per game over his last 14 contests. Poole isn’t known as a strong defender and likely won’t shut down either star, but if he can stay productive and efficient on offense, Westbrook and/or Harden will need to up their defensive effort.
The good news for Poole is that he bounced back in the last four games before the All-Star break (14.8 points on 42.9 percent shooting) after a miserable seven-game stretch (4.7 points on 20 percent shooting). Can he give the Rockets’ All-Stars somewhat of a run for their money?
Our Betting Preview’s Houston Rockets vs Golden State Warriors Predictions & Picks Verdict
The Christmas Day win by the Warriors against the Rockets and that four-game winning streak around that time was a major anomaly for Golden State. The team has gone 3-19 since then and has only won one home game.
The Rockets are just a much better team and have some major motivation here is they remain in the thick of the Western Conference seeding race for seeds two through seven.
Golden State will find itself just looking to pass the time until Stephen Curry’s return and won’t find in itself the necessary fight to make this a close game. Here we go with the Houston Rockets vs Golden State Warriors predictions for this preview:
- The Rockets are favored by 10 points by the bookies. I recommend betting on Houston -10pts @ -110 with 5Dimes, Bookmaker or Intertops.
- While the pace of this game could be somewhat fast due to all the time off, both of these teams could struggle to reach their offensive potential as they search for offensive chemistry with plenty of new players. You should bet the under 232.5 total points being scored @ best odds of -105 with BetOnline.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.