Watch on: TNT, 10:30 P.M. ET
Arguing with people on twitter about how James Harden deserves the foul calls he sometimes gets can be exhausting, and I tip my cap to @HPbasketball for his in-depth twitter thread two days ago for evaluating the fouls on JH that lead to his career-high 27 FT attempts against the Grizz. But thankfully, we can all start our new years resolutions off right with a nice, lightly seasoned Western Conference finals rematch tonight.
Golden State (25-13) is coming off of two back-to-back victories over Portland and Phoenix and are currently sitting pretty at 2nd in the Western Conference, 0.5 games back from the Nuggets as the top seed.
Kevin Durant is posting the fourth best offensive rating in the league at 115.0 and the fourth highest usage percentage at 30.7%. Steph Curry is posting an absolutely absurd 7th best TS% of 65.8% (shoutout to Thomas Bryant for having the league high at 71.3%). Klay Thompson lost his shot throughout the beginning of the season but is quickly improving (44.4% from deep in the last 3 games, 34% on the year thus far). Additionally, Demarcus Cousins is getting back to being healthy, as apparently he is fully practicing now. But tonight, he will not be in the lineup.
The Houston Rockets are the hottest team in the league right now, even with their never-ending onslaught of injuries. They have the best last ten game record at 9-1 and have faced some stiff competition throughout that time. Chris Paul is still out, Eric Gordon is still out now as well, but James Ennis might make his return which would add some much needed wing help going into tonight.
Things to watch for:
- James Harden to get 40 points. This is starting to become a nightly thing where Harden puts up some mycareer nba2k numbers and we all just nod our heads like this is normal.
- The GreenHouse Effect. For two man lineups that have gained over 150 minutes on the court together, Danuel House Jr. and Gerald Green have the highest net rating on the Rockets at 19.4, 5 more than the next lineup. What started as a statistical fun tidbit has now become a necessary duo as they have been vital on this latest hot stretch. Moving forward, House will likely sign with the Rox for the rest of the year (and hopefully for longer) as he continues to be an all-important contributor. In the latest game against MEM, Gerald Green and Danuel House both led the Rockets in WPA with 0.11 and 0.10 respectively (ref: inpredictable.com).
- How the thinned out Rockets defense tries to stymie the GSW offense. The obvious answer here is: help from Gary Clark. But last time I said that I was wrong, so who knows. He deserves at least 5-10 minutes but Austin Rivers has been surefire enough to hold his own on defense and he might be enough. Chris Paul is usually someone who guards KD a lot, and with him out I see James Ennis taking up that mantle more than not.
- Rebounding. The Rockets are currently fifth worst in the league when it comes to rebounding with an average number of boards at 42.1. What contributes to this? It could be as simple as effort seeing as the Rockets are 7th worst when it comes to contested rebounds at 13.2. Additionally, they have the 7th worst adjusted rebounding percentage at 59.2%. Yet, this number has been improving slightly as in the last ten games their adjusted rebounding percentage is 59.6% (16th best in the league during this span). The GSW are not much better in this department but they are nearly exactly league average with an adjusted rebounding percentage of 61.3% (16th in the league).
- Kevin Durant is looking for his 22,000 point and he is 3 points away from getting it (link)
- James Harden is looking to set more records (too many links to post)
Prediction: We fight hard but come up short away from home. 110-101 GSW.
- Steph 30, KD 28
- Harden 43, Green 15