In their first step towards capping off their 73-win season with an NBA championship, the Golden State Warriors face the Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs. It’s a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals, but this time there isn’t much doubt regarding how the series will end.
After finishing 32 games ahead of Houston in the final Western Conference standings, Golden State is considered to be a near lock to advance to the second round. The Warriors have -9000 betting odds to win the series, via BetOnline, and the Rockets are +2000 underdogs. Only the San Antonio Spurs have better first-round odds than the Warriors.
The Warriors needed just five games to get past the Rockets in last year’s postseason. With Houston struggling to barely make the playoffs this season, they could be looking at an opening round sweep.
Houston wasn’t one of the nine teams to defeat Golden State this season, and they never came close to pulling off an upset when the Warriors were at full strength. The Warriors went 3-0 against the Rockets, winning by an average of 16.5 points when Stephen Curry was in the lineup. With an injury sidelining Curry on New Year’s Eve, Golden State beat Houston by four points behind 38 points from Klay Thompson and a triple-double by Draymond Green.
No team had an answer for Curry this year, and the eventual unanimous MVP averaged 30 points on 53.8 percent shooting in two games against Houston. He made 11 of 25 three-point attempts, dishing out 15 total assists against the Rockets.
There’s no reason to believe that Houston will figure out a way to slow down the best regular-season team in league history. No team beat the Warriors more than once this season, and it would be considered an accomplishment if the Rockets could steal more than a game.
James Harden was Curry’s biggest competition for the MVP award last year, but he had two awful performances in last year’s Western Conference Finals. Harden averaged 29 points per game in the regular season, and he’ll need to have a few standout performances if the Rockets want any shot of making this series competitive. The shooting guard is averaging 34.8 points per game in April, and he’ll need to keep up that pace in the first round.
Golden State went 39-2 at home this season, and they are 13-point favorites in Game 1 at Oracle Arena. A poor shooting night for the Warriors could come at some point this series, giving the Rockets a chance to win a game. But Golden State has too many weapons for Houston to have much of a chance.
Series Prediction: Golden State in four
Game 1: at Golden State, Saturday, April 16, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
Game 2: at Golden State, Monday, April 18, 10:30 p.m. ET (TNT)
Game 3: at Houston, Thursday, April 21, 9:30 p.m. ET (TNT)
Game 4: at Houston, Sunday, April 24, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
Game 5: at Golden State, Wednesday, April 27 (TBD)
Game 6: at Houston, Friday, April 29 (TBD)
Game 7: at Golden State, Sunday, May 1 (TBD)