Posts tagged Western Conference Finals
Ball Don't Lie ep. 19 - All that for a drop of blood?

The NBA Finals are set, and the Cavs and Warriors are ready for round 4. Pierce and Scott discuss the Conference Finals, whether LeBron making eight straight NBA Finals matters, and who wins the NBA Finals!

Don't forget to check out Barber's Chair Live on YouTube after every NBA Finals game!

Steph Curry heard the noise, looks to end the Rockets' playoff run
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

It was pretty tiring the last few days, the chatter about the Warriors game 2 loss. My dad’s constant worrying, “Ehh, I don’t know Jules.” All the while I was confident they’d bounce back in a major way, suspecting the catalyst to be Steph Curry after the good old fashion smacking they took in Houston.

The biggest reason for my lack of concern was the Warriors did what they needed to do. Starting a playoff series on the road for the first time in the Steve Kerr era, they needed one of the first two to expel the Rockets home court advantage. But other than their season opener against Houston, the Dubs have rarely lost in anything other than a blowout. When they’re competing, it’s rarely a close game, and their plan coming into game 3 was to compete.

As Draymond Green put it, “We allow one of those a series...We’ve had our one. Now it’s time to lock in.” Green has probably been their most consistent player too, but without the big scoring numbers, his floor game will rarely receive high praise or serious criticism. But in a series against the NBA’s #1 offense, he knows the pressure in on Golden States scorers to really show up.

That might sound ridiculous when considering Kevin Durant dropped 37 in game 1 and 38 in game 2, but 30+ points from KD is a lot different than 30+ from Curry. At their best, the Dubs have Curry creating shots for himself and then creating shots for his teammates. Keeping Steph off the ball on offense is easier to defend because the Rockets can switch off on pindowns, and get more leeway when holding him on the actions.

Keeping the ball in Curry’s hands when they run their motion actions or pick and rolls above the arc is inevitably going to cause a defensive breakdown because of his gravity. The Rockets are much better suited to have KD initiate offense, and to guard KD in his post-up isolations as the offense tends to stagnate. So when the defense turned up in the 2nd half, so too did the Warriors offensive movement.

Curry was getting to the rim repeatedly in the 3rd quarter, the first two layups were gimme’s. Oracle was starting to get loud. As Steph started to feel it, he was relentlessly attacking James Harden’s defense, first taking him off the dribble, then straight ghosting him on a back cut in transition. It was his 4th straight layup, and I looked to my parents and told them “He’s making a three next time down.” Next thing you know, a 30 foot bomb and a shimmy to boot.

But his biggest shot was his floater that prefaced his public address to Oracle. He faked Trevor Ariza out of his shoes, and threw up a shot over Clint Capela. Classic Curry. Then he yelled out, “This is my fucking house!” Surely this had been brewing since his offensive struggles in Houston. But it had been a while since we’ve seen a flurry like this from Steph. This was his response to the noise. Just a friendly reminder what he’s about.

Ball Don't Lie ep 18 - Same Old, Same Old
The Third Pick Lottery Wrap-Up
Western Conference Finals preview
USATSI

USATSI

The Houston Rockets fulfilled their destiny by finding their way to the Western Conference Finals. It seemed like this was bound to happen since the trade sent Chris Paul to Houston, but along the way they exceeded expectations by winning the west, and getting James Harden to play at an MVP level with an all-time point guard beside him.

Now they face the Golden State Warriors with the NBA Finals on the line, and unlike past playoff matchups, the Rockets expect to win.

They’ve been targeting Golden State for years, this season especially. In their opening night matchup, the Rockets came back from down 14 in the fourth quarter to steal the win on ring night, and when a KD jumper was called no good on replay, the Rockets did all but pop the champagne. But now they’re ready for the real bubbly, at least they believe they are, and that’s a huge part of being a title contender.

The Rockets have a vastly different mindset as a team, and that’s a credit to their player development and coaching. Harden doesn’t get caught sleeping on defense anymore, CP3 has smoothly transitioned into a secondary ball-handler, and Clint Capela is playing his role the way Dwight Howard never did during his time in Houston. It’s reminiscent of the Warriors when they play hard every night. It’s the focus of a team that’s finding out they have some chops. Unfortunately for them, they’ll have to go through the big dogs.

The Warriors are looking at this series quite different than Houston is. They’ve gone to hell and back in the playoffs, but they’ve also got a lot more chemistry than the Rockets. They’ll probably end up screwing around and start Javale to match up with Capela because they know their margin of error is the highest in the league. It really comes down to the talent, and Golden State wins that battle.

With Klay Thompson most likely guarding Harden, it sets up for a CP3-Steph match-up, conjuring up memories and emotions from when the Clipper-Warriors rivalry was at its peak. CP3’s instinct may take over where he’ll feel the need to go at Steph, but I think he can be much more effective in the rhythm of their offense. Steph has added muscle to be able to hold his own in defensive switches in the pick and roll, but Paul comes into this series as a much healthier player, and with some momentum after that crazy 40/10 closeout performance vs. Utah in the semifinal. He’s going to try to get Steph out of the game whenever he can, goating him into making mistakes in 1 on 1 defense, but in the end, Curry’s output on offense should win the individual match-up.

Another intriguing match-up is Harden vs. Kevin Durant. While they won't be guarding each other much this series, they’re the best scoring options on their respective teams. Houston simply cannot guard KD 1 on 1. Durant can shoot over, dribble past, and finish on anyone, Trevor Ariza included, and while Harden lacks the height that KD brings to the table, he’s gotten into peak physical shape which has elevated his game to MVP levels. Most likely, we’ll see various actions to get Harden running downhill off the pick and roll. The Rockets love their pick-and-roll sets where Capela immediately uses a downscreen from a shooter (Eric Gordon, for ex.) who can pop out for three. The Warriors defense will formulate a gameplan, preemptively switching the defenders involved, but it’ll require a series long focus. If Harden runs the Dubs tired, it could mean a game to the Rockets.

There's no question that the Rockets give the Warriors the best challenge they've seen in the playoffs. For the first time in the Steve Kerr era, the Warriors won’t have home court advantage, and will have to play a Game 7 on the road if the series stretches that far. Game one could be the closest of them all, as the Warriors come in looking to steal home court & Houston's momentum. One thing I'm sure of is this: the winner of this series will win the NBA title.

Dubs in Fo’