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5 reasons why the Rockets can stop the Warriors

As of right now, the Golden State Warriors are the defending NBA champions. They have decimated every team in route to their second title in three years. Obviously, the Warriors are the team to beat, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. By no means are the Warriors unstoppable. The Warriors have lost questionable games this season, they don’t look poised, and injuries can certainly play a role in them losing their championship status. Therefore, if there is any team that can surely challenge the Warriors, it’s the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets’ mixture of explosive firepower, great defense, and a focused outlook are all key ingredients to forming a solution that can detain the Warriors. Granted, the Rockets haven’t beat the Warriors in a playoff series yet, but they look determined to do so moving forward. Here are five reasons why the Rockets can put an end to the Warriors’ dynasty.

5. They have the firepower

james harden, chris paul

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Right now, James Harden is averaging 31.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG, and 9.0 APG. He is a prime candidate for this year’s MVP award, and he is shooting 39 percent from deep. Harden is an offensive mastermind that can get his own shot and set plays up for others. The scary part of the whole equation is that he is assisted in the backcourt by none other than Chris Paul. Paul is more dangerous than Harden when he is on the court alone, igniting an offense with an offensive rating of 122.2. In simple terms, the Houston Rockets have the firepower to beat anyone, and that includes the Golden State Warriors.

This isn’t to suggest that the Rockets can blow out the Warriors in a casual up and down game, but the Rockets certainly have what it takes to make things interesting. After all, James Harden can beat you scoring and running the Rockets’ lethal offense. When he sits, Paul can beat you running the offense in a sweltering way. When both are on the floor, the Rockets become too much to handle with any conventional defense. The Warriors are no exception. They may even have a tough time guarding the Houston Rockets for an entire series if they should meet.

4. Injuries can play a role

Stephen Curry Injury

Screencap via NBA TV

No one likes to get injured, but injuries are always a part of the game. Every team has to go through some type of adversity, and most times it’s with constant and nagging injuries to core players. The Golden State Warriors may be unbeatable, but they are just as fragile as any other team. Earlier in the year, fans (mostly Vegas) gasped and held their breath as Kevin Durant went down with a leg injury. Initially, it seemed as if Durant would be gone for the entire season. Lucky for the Warriors, Durant survived and made it back on the court stronger than ever. Unfortunately, the ball doesn’t always roll that way.

The Golden State Warriors are composed of a lethal starting five, and a closing unit known as the Death Lineup 2.0 with the addition of Durant. They also have quality bench pieces that are either two-way players or specialty niche players. So, if Curry or Durant went down with a minor injury, the Warriors can still beat teams at an impressive rate. However, the Warriors will need to be at full strength to beat the Rockets. Any injury to their core could spell doom in a potential series. The Warriors need all the firepower they can get against the Rockets. They simply have to count their lucky stars and hope that they are 100 percent ready to go if they should see the Rockets in the playoffs.

3. Their defense is getting better

Kevin Durant

Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY Sports

At first, the Houston Rockets were ridiculed for their disgust at playing decent defense. In fact, their head coach, Mike D’Antoni seemingly ignored the Rockets’ defensive woes, which led to their defeat at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs in the 2017 NBA playoffs. Surprisingly, the Rockets have a top 10 defense, and are playing very well on that end of the floor. They have great defensive pieces in Luc Mbah a Moute, P.J. Tucker, Clint Capela, and Trevor Ariza. This will essentially allow the Rockets to get meaningful stops in close games against the Warriors. However, this does not tell the full story.

The Rockets’ defensive prowess can enable them to shut down the Warriors’ options on the bench, putting stress on the starters to score and keep up with the Rockets’ unrelenting offense. Essentially, the Rockets can hinder the Warriors not by stopping Curry and Durant, but by putting clamps on everyone else. The Rockets have the length to also play physical with the Warriors, which is obviously a good thing since the Warriors are still a small, shooting team. In theory, if the Rockets can clog the Warriors’ second unit, they should have a chance at bringing down the reigning champions.

2. They are versatile

eric gordon

Getty Images

Admittedly, the Warriors have certainly become deeper in the offseason. They added reliable shooters in Omri Casspi and Nick Young, and they drafted a defensive stud that is showing promise on the offensive end as well. The Warriors are also getting reliable production from their bench. Shaun Livingston is still a walking midrange jumpshot. JaVale McGee is bound to catch a lob from time to time, and Patrick McCaw is shooting very well.

The Rockets have gotten deeper as well with their own additions. Chris Paul, who was thought to be the odd man out, is fitting perfectly with the Rockets. P.J. Tucker is performing as the 3-and-D player that the Rockets hoped he would be, and Clint Capela is having a breakout season. The Warriors won’t be able to use their depth as an advantage anymore against the Rockets. The Rockets will have their own fair share of reliable players.

1. The Rockets can exploit turnovers

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY

The Warriors have created a selfless brand of basketball that has resulted in the team becoming turnover prone every so often. The Warriors make accumulating turnovers seem like an understatement. They turn the ball over too much, and this can be a problem if other teams start to punish them for it. Being a great offensive and defensive team, the Rockets can definitely capitalize off of the Warriors’ mistakes.

Unnecessary turnovers by the Warriors can result in easy fastbreak points for the Rockets. If the trend continues, the Rockets may have a formula for beating the Warriors. That could theoretically be allowing the Warriors to pass the ball, playing stifling defense that can cause turnovers. It’s a long shot practically, but it can be done.

All in all, the Rockets definitely have a shot to compete with the Warriors and win. Time will only tell if the Warriors will be ready themselves.