The Golden State Warriors barely escaped the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference finals last season and limp into the rematch a round earlier and with plenty of questions to answer. The top-seeded Warriors will try to steal Game 1 and maintain homecourt advantage when they host the Rockets in the semifinals on Sunday.
Golden State needed six games to dispatch the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers in the first round and along the way lost starting center DeMarcus Cousins (quad) and watched All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson limp out of the arena after rolling ankles in Friday's Game 6. "Getting through it now, it's easy to say, 'Yeah, that was good for us,'" Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters after winning Game 6. "It didn't feel good for us while it was happening. But they brought out the best in us and now we'll move on." The Rockets have been off since Wednesday after dispatching the Utah Jazz in five games in the first round and are itching for another shot at Golden State after watching Chris Paul go down in Game 5 with a hamstring injury in the 2018 matchup and missing 27 3-pointers in a row during the decisive Game 7. "We've been working on it all year long," Houston center Clint Capela told reporters. "I think if you want to be the champion, you've got to beat the champion. So, at some point, you've got to do it, right?"
When: 3:30 PM ET, Sunday, April 28, 2019
Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, California
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
ABOUT THE ROCKETS: Houston superstar James Harden struggled to 37.4 percent from the floor in the first round, but the team made up the difference on the other end of the floor. "We didn't make as (many) shots as we wanted to offensively, but these last few games, we hung our hat on defense," Harden told reporters. "That's what's going to get us to our goal. Shot-making is extra. It's a bonus. If we're guarding like we're guarding and knocking down our shots, it's going to be real tough." Harden averaged 28.7 points on 41.3 percent shooting in the seven games against Golden State last spring.
ABOUT THE WARRIORS: The Rockets' defense will need to find a way to slow Golden State star Kevin Durant, who exploded for 50 points in Game 6 on Friday and averaged 35 points on 56.7 percent shooting in the first round. "Like sometimes - sometimes you come across special people and it doesn't matter what you send to them," Clippers guard Lou Williams told reporters of Durant after Game 6. "There's no scheme. There's no nothing that you can do with special people. He's one of them. And he showed it tonight. He put them guys on his shoulders." While Cousins is not expected to play in the series, Durant should have Curry and Thompson available to help him in Game 1.
1. Warriors PF Draymond Green recorded a triple-double with 16 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists on Friday.
2. Capela averaged a double-double at 10.8 points and 10.6 rebounds in the first round.
3. Houston took three of four meetings in the regular season.
PREDICTION: Warriors 109, Rockets 107