The Rockets regained their strength with Chris Paul and Clint Capela who came back from injury and the newly-added Kenneth Faried played well. James Harden is still a top-three MVP candidate, but while Houston is trending upward, the Rockets are the best team to defeat the Warriors in the playoffs?
The last one on The Crossover podcast, Chris Mannix and Rohan Nadkarni discuss whether the Rockets are legitimate threats in the Western Conference.
(Listen to the latest Crossover podcast here. The following transcription has been modified and condensed for clarity.)
Chris Mannix: We talk about the Rockets. They went to Golden State on Saturday and win without James Harden. Chris Paul has a great game – get points from a group of guys – Rockets are more and more like the team we saw last year. Look at that victory against the Golden State as a one-off or look at the fact that they have a good record against the Golden State in the last two years – they were 3-2 in the Western Conference finals last year, this group of missiles is a legitimate threat to the state of gold in the West?
Rohan Nadkarni: The victory over Golden State on Saturday night does not mean anything at all. Every year we say this with the Warriors: a team beats them and we are like "Oh my God". Look what the Warriors did in Denver when people like me were peeping over the Nuggets and the Warriors said that you know what, we'll take care of a regular season game and have organized a historical first quarter.
As soon as James Harden was excluded, I realized that the Rockets were winning that game. That was the Warriors who said "If you guys do not give an s-, we do not give an s – & # 39;. James Harden has been incredible, there is no doubt and we can discuss if he is about to wear down when we get to the playoffs and it was encouraging to see Chris Paul have a great game. Chris Paul last year, as, pound-for-pound was a MVP level player. He has not played enough games and has had an exceptional season last year. This year has not been the same, not only from an accident point of view, but in the field it did not have the same impact. He has already taken a step back this year. But what bothers me about Rockets more than anything is defense.
I'm in third place in the standings. Last year they were a top-10 defensive team. Somehow they led Jeff Bzdelik to leave retirement to repair the defense and it did not work. It will help when Clint Capela is completely healthy and I think Iman Shumpert can help. Can they have another guy in the shopping market? But I think the Rockets' success against the Warriors last year was predicted because they were building their entire defense from the first day of the training camp to mate with Golden State. They did a great job against the Warriors in the Western Conference finals, taking them out of their game, forcing a lot of Kevin Durant's isolation. I do not really see this from them this year and that's why I can not call them a legitimate threat.
As good as Harden, when he hit that three-time winner and on the ground he told Draymond Green a bad word. I was like. "Yes, it's great. This is beautiful to die for. I love Rockets & # 39 ;. But I do not trust a defense from below 10 that defeats Golden State in the playoffs.
Mannix: I do not have the numbers for what this team is with Faried or just the entire lineup altogether. This is the team I am looking for because there is only a limited source of information available on the Faried, Rivers, Harden, Paul, Capela range. This is the lineup that we must see if they can defend at a high level. But they are 3-0 against Golden State. And the Golden State will have a problem with DeMarcus Cousins, because the cousins are being punched. And watching that Rocket game, it was just Chris Paul who picked up the pick-and-roll on DeMarcus Cousins. A couple of them was not noteworthy, but that's what they're doing all day.
And DeMarcus Cousins is already starting to grumble a little about his role in this team, not about finishing the games, but the reality is that if you can not defend the bread and butter at a high level, then you do not you can be out there. It must be a smaller line with Draymond Green or [Kevon] Looney to five. I only wonder if it becomes a source of friction within that team. Even though DeMarcus Cousins has said the right things about being in this team and rehabilitating his body, he can not play against point guards like Chris Paul because they will put him in the pick-and-roll until the Sun arrives.