Sound smart for the rematch we've all been waiting for

The Casual Fans Guide to Rockets versus Warriors

Rockets.com

The 87 warm up games are over.

Everything the Rockets have done since they were eliminated by the Golden State Warriors has been strategically geared toward coordinating a playoff rematch of a series where Houston pushed arguably the greatest basketball team ever assembled to the brink of elimination. And while the rendezvous is a round earlier than expected, it looks to be just as much of a battle as the classic series basketball fans were treated to last season. Here's a look at what to expect from the first must-watch playoff series.

How Houston got here

Houston slipped down from a potential second seed playoff berth to the fourth seed on the last week of the season, drawing a round one match up against the Utah Jazz. The Jazz came into the series as one of the hottest teams in the NBA since the All Star Break. Unphased, the Rockets set about smacking them around the Toyota Center in games one and two. Game three was an ugly slop-fest, but Houston's star power carried them across the finish line to go up three games to one. Jazz star guard Donovan Mitchell erupted in the fourth quarter of game four to eek out a win at the last moment, which brought the series back to Houston. Wednesday night the Rockets polished the Jazz off, and in spite of the Warriors/Clippers series having yet to determine a victor, Houston preemptively mounted up and headed to the bay area in anticipation of the inevitable.

How Golden State got here

If you haven't heard by now, the Golden State Warriors are really good. Actually, as far as the regular season is concerned, they were the best in the western conference. Their number one seed saw the defending champions square off against the eighth seeded Los Angeles Clippers. The Warriors jumped all over the Clippers in game one just as everyone expected, with former MVP Steph Curry dropping 38 points in a 121-104 victory.

In game two, the Warriors became the joke of the week as they blew an NBA playoff record 31-point lead and managed to cede a home game to the Clippers.

Game three and four were Warrior victories, and as Houston closed out the Jazz on Wednesday, Golden State failed to do the same. The Clippers' game five victory began to raise concern and at the very least gave the talking heads something to yell at each other about until Friday. Kevin Durant--apparently over everyone's nonsense--dropped 50 points on the Clippers en route to a series clinching victory.

Know your enemy

Stephen Curry - Former MVP and all star point guard. Stephen Curry is basically the greatest shooter of all time, and that was established before he started wearing contacts roughly a month ago. So yeah, he could get better. Great. Curry is one of the key pieces of what is essentially an All-Star team that was given 82 games to get to know each other.

Klay Thompson -Shooting guard. Thompson plays great defense, and has deadly range which he puts on display regularly via Curry-fed catch and shoots from beyond the 3-point line. Thompson still believes that goatees are cool. He also pitches chocolate milk as his post-game recovery drink on TV, which I almost kind of believe. He's easy to spot, as he's the player that most resembles a video game create-a-player that--beyond adding a goatee--looks like no changes were made.

Kevin Durant - Former MVP small forward and one of the top three basketball players on the planet. At nearly 7 feet tall he has the length to shoot over you, the speed to blow past you, and range from all over the court. Durant also has a lot of feelings, and likes to let you know through his burner twitter accounts. Durant also thinks goatees are cool. Whatever.

Draymond Green - Power forward. Green is the linchpin of the entire operation. He's a defensive juggernaut and the kind of glue guy you'll find diving after loose balls. He also talks a lot of trash. Then, because he's on a generationally-talented team, he backs it up. At one point he had a respectable jump shot, but they must have broken up because that thing is nowhere to be found. Made a name for himself kicking other players in spots they would prefer to not be kicked. Green very easily falls into that category of player that fans love when he's on their roster and despise otherwise.

Andrew Bogut - Center. Big Australian that knows the Warriors system well enough to warrant a call as insurance if/when starting center DeMarcus Cousins went down with an injury. Bogut won't be leaned on for anything outside of defense and an inside presence to counter the Rockets' Clint Capela.

Prediction

The Rockets are in for a dogfight. Golden State is the number one seed for a reason. They're widely expected by most to defeat the Rockets, but those same people will also agree that if there is one team that can oust the Warriors in the west, it's the Rockets. General Manager Daryl Morey has made it very clear that this is a Rockets roster specifically designed to beat Golden State, and it's largely worked. In their past 14 contests, Houston is 8-6 against the defending champions.

Houston enters this rematch much deeper than a year before, while Golden State's depth-outside of Andre Iguodala--has alternatively taken a noticeable step back. The Rockets are fully healthy (*knocks on wood*), while Golden State lost their starting center for the remainder of the playoffs in round one. While they may not have home court advantage like they did a year before, Houston is still a dangerous team.

The Warriors, however, are still the Warriors. They've won 3 of the last 4 NBA Championships and have lost none of their core. Houston has a shot. Houston can beat them. Houston is not favored, however, and they shouldn't be.

The problem is that Kevin Durant will not be stopped because he can't be. The Rockets' best chance will be to do their best against Durant, while shutting down Thompson and forcing Curry into foul trouble via isolation plays against James Harden. A lot of things have to go right for Houston to win, and it's entirely possible.

From an objective standpoint however, it's difficult to pick against the Warriors until someone finally beats them. I expect at least a six game series and would not be surprised with another game seven. The Warriors should win, but the series will most likely go down as the best of the 2019 playoffs.

I'd prefer to be wrong, but I predict Warriors in six.

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Another tough loss for the Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans started fast but faltered late as the New York Jets hand Houston their ninth loss of the season 21-14. Here are 11 observations from the game.

1. Starting safety Justin Reid was benched for the game. David Culley said after the game it was his decision as head coach and he would keep the matter internal with Reid.

2. This is the third defender benched for disciplinary reasons this season. Reid joins Zach Cunningham and Desmond King as players who missed time for discipline.

3. Justin Reid told Fox 26 he was benched because he had a disagreement with the coaching staff. He also said he was shocked the Texans benched him. You have to wonder if the “culture” the team is building is right when one of the more likable and personable players falls victim to their rules. Reid, who is a free agent this offseason, could leave the Texans.

4. Tyrod Taylor had a couple of nice plays early on for the Texans. His willingness to take some shots downfield was refreshing and led to a touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks.

5. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan found the end zone. He has played well in recent weeks after finally getting on the field. Jordan is playing over Jordan Akins as Akins was a healthy scratch again this week.

6. Tytus Howard started at left tackle with mixed results. Howard has struggled to find his way at guard but could be a long-term option at tackle if given the chance.

7. The offensive line overall played poorly after some early success. The pass rush of the Jets got going and the run blocking was poor again. Lane Taylor played at left guard some, with Max Scharping also playing some at that spot.

8. The offense was horrendous after the two scoring drives. The Texans amassed 202 net yards with 91 yards coming on those two scoring drives. Houston gained just 49 net yards after their opening three drives.

9. After the game, I asked David Culley if he would be making a change with his play-caller. Culley stood behind offensive coordinator Tim Kelly and said he would remain the team’s play-caller.

10. Second-year defensive lineman Ross Blacklock had two horrible errors that handed the Jets a chance to turn three points into seven points. Blacklock got a personal foul on a field goal attempt giving the Jets a first down. The very next play his offsides penalty erased a sack. Each week Blacklock falls even more behind a bevy of players drafted after him who contribute positively on a regular basis.

11. The loss to another bottom-dweller has the Texans back in the second spot in the 2022 NFL Draft order. It also feels like the deflating nature of this loss erased some of the good feelings after the victory over the Titans. The Indianapolis Colts come to Houston next week to begin December’s portion of the schedule.

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