Image courtesy of NBC Sports
The Houston Rockets dominated the regular season of the NBA in 2017-2018. Statistically sound, conceptually built to succeed with the major offseason addition of Chris Paul, paired with the offensive guru of a coach Mike D’antoni, all have looked great for the city affectionately known as “Clutch City”. The Rockets even beat the Golden State Warriors two out of three times in convincing fashion, leading many including myself to claim that the reign of terror the Warriors have imposed on the league would come to an end this postseason.
As we near this inevitable matchup, I cannot say that I’m as confident as I once was.
The Warriors stress me out. The Warriors with Kevin Durant makes me want to stop watching basketball as the conclusion is usually inevitable. We have never seen a team this stacked before in the league, and I’m not sure if we ever will again because of the generational talent of Stephen Curry.
When the Rockets and Warriors inevitably meet in the Western Conference Finals, don’t let the home-court advantage of Houston distract you from the fact that the Warriors have the mental advantage. Dare I compare it to Lebron and the Toronto Raptors? The individual postseason resumes of Paul, D’antoni, and James Harden aren’t that great.
In 2016, Harden and the Rockets lost to the Warriors in five games. During that series, Harden’s shooting percentages and points per game all dipped. In 2017 against the San Antonio Spurs, the numbers dipped again in all major statistical categories including percentages, points, rebounds, and assists. Below are Harden’s 2016 regular season stats (left) compared with his series against the Warriors (right):
Then take Paul. Back in 2015, the Los Angeles Clippers led by Paul collapsed in an embarrassing 3-1 fashion to the Houston Rockets. Fast forward to 2017, the Clippers lost to the Utah Jazz in the playoffs in the first round. I’ve always been a CP3 fan, so I would actually be willing to overlook those transgressions but there’s one more glaring, reprehensible fact: Chris Paul lost seven consecutive games to the Warriors.
But that’s not all folks.
Preceding the Chris Paul era, Harden and the Rockets lost 10 of the last 11 games against the Warriors.
The nucleus of the Rockets is it’s two biggest stars- Harden and Paul. Great players no doubt, and the two coming together is eerily reminiscent of the original Big Three- Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Charles Barkley back in the mid 90’s. A team of scorned superstars joining forces for the greater good!
Image courtesy of Off the Glass
That team lost in the 1997 Western Conference Finals to the Utah Jazz.
This current team will face a similar result with the Warriors.
This combo has been more fire than a number one from Burger King for the season, but please, please, know that this is just fool’s gold.
I studied biology in undergrad, and there is an interesting concept known as “nuclear reprogramming by cell fusion”. I don’t need to get into the intricate details because you’re obviously here for sports not science. But the Houston Rockets fused two stars together and added several offseason additions like PJ Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute, hoping they would be able to reprogram the franchise to beat the Warriors. Per ESPN, even Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey said that beating the warriors is “the only thing that we think about.”
To be candid, this team is built to win a championship and is statistically sound. But despite the number one seed, if there is something wrong with the DNA, the cell cannot function normally. When it comes to the Warriors, there is something that is simply off about Paul and Harden.
You could even throw in the coaching factor considering D’antoni has never coached a team past the Western Conference Finals.
I get it: You want the Warriors to be destroyed; the Kevin Durant memes, etc. Trust me, I want it just as much as you do, but take a deep breath and relax, and get ready to sit through another unfair Warriors Finals appearance.
Either way, you and I know this story will not end well.
*Follow me on twitter@mark_a_gilbert.