Would another Houston victory over Golden State tonight convince you that the Rockets can handle the Warriors in a playoff series?
* * *
Steve Aschburner: Can? The furthest I’ll go is “might be able to.” That particular matchup, for me, is working both ends of the gotta-see-it-to-believe-it scale. I need to see the defending champions go down before I’m willing to count them out, and I need to see their primary challengers actually defeat Golden State to know they can do it. Regular-season games – regrettably, for reasons ranging from injuries to scheduling to gamesmanship – don’t tell us much in 2019 about what will or won’t happen in a playoff setting. Houston has weapons, it has its health now and it even has demonstrated it can push the Warriors to a Game 7. But it hasn’t done anything to assure us it can win one.
Tas Melas: I don’t need yet another win — the performance in last year’s playoffs plus the 3-0 record this season leads me to believe, that they believe, that the ‘We Believe’ Warriors might even be in trouble. Houston is the only team in the West that can give them a real playoff test because of their recent success and the fact they play such a different style than Golden State. The Rockets’ depth and lack of reps with some of that depth (Austin Rivers, Kenneth Faried) is a concern, but hey, it’s the Warriors — no one is issue-free when playing the league’s best.
Shaun Powell: Don’t believe the Rockets need another victory to have the respect of the Warriors and also raise the possibility of a postseason upset. This is virtually the same Rockets team that took the Warriors to the limit last spring, minus Trevor Ariza but plus Kenneth Faried, who brings a different dimension. To beat the Warriors you need a superstar (James Harden), and a smart supporting cast (Chris Paul) and a rim protector (Clint Capela) and, of course, hope the Warriors are off their game.This can happen.
John Schuhmann: No. Kevin Durant won’t be playing and the regular season is not the playoffs. The Rockets are looking more like the favorite to be the other team in the Western Conference finals, and while their defense has taken a big step backward this season (only the Spurs have seen a bigger increase in points allowed per 100 possessions), they’ve defended the Warriors better than they did last year. And the Warriors could have a tougher time flipping the switch than they did a year ago, given their own regression on defense. Houston beating Golden State in the playoffs is certainly possible, but nothing (aside from multiple injuries) would convince me (that’s a strong word) that the Warriors can lose a postseason series … until I see it happen.
Sekou Smith: Another regular season win for the Rockets over the Warriors doesn’t convince me of anything. I saw them handle the Warriors last year and go up 3-2 in the Western Conference finals … and still come up short when it mattered most. Nothing will erase the image of those Rockets, with their best record in the league and all that “swag,” as James Harden calls it, dashed as they walked off the Toyota Center floor last summer. They were stunned it ended the way it did, with that futile 3-point shooting effort in Game 7. They haven’t reconstituted themselves this season or changed the way they play, so I don’t know why there would be any added confidence in their ability to dethrone the Warriors this time around. That said, they remain the most serious challenger to the Warriors for the second straight season.