The Western Conference finals, which start Monday, will pit the Houston Rockets, the NBA’s top team this season, against the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
Here’s a look at how the teams match up:
1. HOUSTON (65-17): Home 34-7; road 31-10
Defeated Minnesota 4-1 in first round.
Defeated Utah 4-1 in second round.
2. GOLDEN STATE (58-24): Home 29-12; road 29-12
Defeated San Antonio 4-1 in first round.
Defeated New Orleans 4-1 in second round.
Season series: Rockets 2-1.
Key stats: Golden State is giving up a playoff-low 99.3 points per 100 possessions. Its “Hamptons Five” lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green drops that to 87.0. ... The Warriors have won 15 consecutive home games. ... Six Olympic gold medalists are in this series: Thompson (2016), Durant (2012, 2016), Green (2016), Iguodala (2012) James Harden (2012) and Chris Paul (2008, 2012).
Outlook: Since Paul requested a trade last June to Houston, the Rockets have targeted a Warriors matchup while adding Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker for their switching defense. Houston took away the usual home-court edge for the Warriors, who are pursuing their fourth consecutive NBA finals trip. Curry appears healthy with two weeks of play and 44% shooting from long range last series. Paul offers a fair fight for him, coming off a 41-point, 10-assist, no-turnover close-out game. Backup Eric Gordon does not defensively and has shot 32% in the playoffs. The “Hamptons Five” outscored the Pelicans 165-111 in 54 minutes. Houston’s Clint Capela will be tested by ball and body movement after outplaying top centers in the first two series. Harden has been off and will not get a free-throw parade against Thompson. Durant has heated up but Houston offers better counters in Tucker (whose shooting has been a bonus) and Trevor Ariza.
Paul Coro’s prediction: Warriors in six.
Game 1: Monday at Houston, 6 p.m. (TNT)
Game 2: Wednesday at Houston, 6 p.m. (TNT)
Game 3: May 20 at Golden State, 5 p.m. (TNT)
Game 4: May 22 at Golden State, 6 p.m. (TNT)
Game 5: May 24 at Houston, 6 p.m. (TNT)
Game 6: May 26 at Golden State, 6 p.m. (TNT)
Game 7: May 28 at Houston, 6 p.m. (TNT)
Games 5-7 if necessary; all times PDT