The playoff series NBA fans have been anticipating all season is finally upon us. The defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors will be squaring off against the best team of the 2017-18 regular season, the 65-win Houston Rockets, in the Western Conference Finals.
Both squads got through the first two rounds of the playoffs with relative ease. The Warriors dismantled both the Spurs and Pelicans in five games, and the Rockets defeated both the Timberwolves and Jazz in five games, also.
The teams are similar in talent, though the Warriors have a bit more star power. In Game 1 today, Houston will aim to hold serve at home in what should be an exciting contest (9 p.m. ET Monday on TNT).
Continue reading this preview for a breakdown on some important questions heading into the series’ opening game. At the end, you’ll get our Golden State Warriors vs Houston Rockets predictions and a couple of betting tips.
Can Clint Capela Stay on Floor for the Rockets?
In the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Rockets have had a legitimate star Big Three of James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela. Capela, Houston’s budding young center, has averaged 14.4 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game (all higher numbers than the regular season) and dominated on the defensive end so far.
However, both of the Rockets’ matchups thus far (the Timberwolves and Jazz) have been ideal ones for Capela. Both teams have slower, more traditional centers who do most of their work near the hoop, and neither squad plays at a fast pace. Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert are great players, but Capela benefitted from both of them not being versatile floor spacers.
The Warriors are a different story. Their favorite lineup plays the ultra-versatile Draymond Green at the center position. Green is very quick for a big man and often plays on the perimeter, which makes the Golden State offense essentially a five-out unit. That could be tough for Capela to keep up with, but we’ll see how he handles it.
Are Warriors Over Turnover Issues?
The Warriors have tightened up their execution on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor in the postseason. No longer are they committing as many turnovers or having as many lapses in focus on defense as they did in the regular season.
It is probably safe to assume that the Warriors will remain locked in on the defensive end of the floor. They realize the stakes of this matchup and should sense that Houston is too good as a team for the Warriors to slack off.
The turnovers could be different, though. Nervousness can often play a role in ball control, while defense is more effort-based. A big part of Golden State’s identity in the past few years has been its uptempo nature and risky passes in the open court. These passes usually work out well for the Warriors, but they can be a problem if they get too sloppy.
Golden State has curbed its high turnover numbers in the regular season, decreasing its regular season average of 15.5 down to 13. The squad will need to continue doing so against a Houston squad that is averaging a mere 9.1 turnovers per game in the postseason.
Will Chris Paul Continue to Step Up as a Scorer?
One big reason the Rockets acquired Paul last summer was so someone could carry the offensive load when James Harden wasn’t on his game. That was a great plan for the team in the regular season and as recently as last week.
In the final two games of the Rockets’ second-round series, Harden averaged just 21 points per contest on 34.1 percent shooting. Meanwhile, Paul averaged 34 points in the two games on a 52.1/56.3/90 shooting slash.
Harden should bounce back in this series. According to Paul, he was feeling sick at the end of the Jazz series. However, the Rockets don’t have the offensive firepower to handle the Warriors if Paul settles back into scoring 16 to 18 points per game and lets Harden dominate the offense.
In the playoffs, the team with more star power usually wins out. The Warriors can create good shots in their sleep with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Can Chris Paul help Harden out with somewhere around 25 points in this game?
Our Preview’s Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets Game 1 Betting Picks & Predictions
I like Houston’s odds at throwing the first punch in this matchup. While the Warriors are my pick to win the series, the Rockets are the team that is more eager to get this matchup started given that much of their roster is new to this stage of the postseason. Stephen Curry is still getting back into the swing of things for Golden State, which could be a little bit complacent.
- The Rockets are being favored by either 1 or 1.5 points in this matchup with the best online sportsbooks for USA This preview advises betting on the Rockets -1 @ best odds of +100 with MyBookie.
- With a long layoff, both of these teams will have fresh legs and prepared minds. Both squads want to score in transition, and they will have the physical capacity to do so with so many days off. Plus, it is never a bad idea to predict that the NBA’s two best offenses will score a lot of points. Place your money on the over 5 total points being scored @ -112 with BetOnline. Most other bookies are at 224 or, in the case of Bovada, 225pts.
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.