Mike D'Antoni: Rockets are 'obviously the underdog' against Warriors


They are 50-5 this season (including the postseason) when James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela have been healthy. Still, Thompson provides a level of defense and presence in the paint Cleveland lacked and Boston exploited in Game 1. This, however, is not an ordinary season.

For Golden State, getting Steph Curry back to full strength might just be the difference maker in who takes the cake in this series.

Houston Rockets guard James Harden is the odds-on favorite to win NBA MVP, but not everyone loves the way he plays the game.

I did not predict a Houston victory, but I wouldn't be completely shocked by it.

The former Cavaliers GM knows how thin the margin of success was in 2016 and how infinitesimal it is since Golden State added Kevin Durant.

Harden and Durant were incendiary from the start, combining for 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting in the first quarter. From a qualitative perspective, though, his off-the-dribble burst wasn't quite what it is at his peak.

Here are my questions, their answers and my reasons for picking Houston.

How will Stephen Curry's left knee hold up?

Nathaniel Friedman on the greatness and malaise of Golden State.

Golden State knocked down 13 3-pointers in the game and shot 52.5 from the field. Paul is still one of the best defensive guards in the league: he has some of the quickest hands in the league and makes up for his relative lack of size with a strong lower frame and an nearly unhealthy amount of competitive spirit. The Rockets rely far more heavily on isolations than any other team in the league in large part because of Harden's effectiveness.

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"Kevin is the piece you can't really game plan for because they are so good around him you can't really decide: We're going to keep Kevin out of the game", said Griffin, who will be working with Turner Sports for the NBA Finals. But can he be his normal self against Golden State? It was a formula built to stop Golden State, but one that also took care of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Jazz in five games each.

This will likely come down to how well Capela defends when the Warriors go small. Now they begin the series in Houston, which was so unusual to the Warriors that some players reportedly booked the wrong plane tickets for family members. It's a form of resignation but maybe also a kind of relief, which is how I'm assuming Golden State fans feel about the 73-win total. If it doesn't, he will look like a liability more often than he looks like the Rockets' third star. There is so much ridiculous talent on both sides, and there are countless different ways you can see it playing out. "You have to try to make it harder for him".

In general, defending a guy like Durant is a team effort.

St. Jean: "The Warriors move the ball a lot". If they win Game 1, it makes Game 2 a must-win for the Rockets.

These two were signed because they are such strong and smart defenders, but they were reliable 3-point shooters in the regular season, too: Tucker made 37.1 percent of his 3-point attempts and Mbah a Moute made 36.4 percent of his.

"It's very important. They are a very good offensive team". In fact, Houston has taken a playoff-high 46 percent of all shots from three-point range in this postseason run. We can spend days and days discussing how we got here, and how this series has been many years in the making, and how the Rockets have a tall task before them despite clinching the number one overall seed. Houston's margin for error is slim, so a cold streak at the wrong time could be costly.

Whoever starts, Cleveland is going to be better in Game 2.

We've entered the fourth season of the annual South Point-lined Play of the Day competition, effective July 1.

Houston has home-court advantage after finishing with the league's best regular-season record at 65-17. If you're hoping for a long, interesting series, root for the Rockets on Monday.