It’s a round earlier than most probably expected, but the No. 1 seed Golden State Warriors will face the No. 4 Houston Rockets in the second round of the 2019 NBA playoffs, beginning on Sunday in Oakland. The two teams squared off in the best series of last year’s playoffs in the Western Conference finals, with the Warriors emerging in seven games after falling behind 3-2. Some, including the Rockets, feel that were it not for a Chris Paul hamstring injury which sidelined him for the final two games, Houston would have advanced to the NBA Finals.
They’ll get their chance this time around, as the Rockets come in red-hot after a strong close to the regular season and a dominant five-game series win over the Utah Jazz. The Warriors, on the other hand, unexpectedly dropped two home games to the No. 8 Clippers before closing things out in Game 6 in Los Angeles on Friday night.
This is the Western Conference series we’ve all been waiting for, and with the star power on the court between Paul, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, it should be one to remember.
Here’s everything you need to know about this second-round series.
No. 1 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 4 Houston Rockets
How to watch Game 1
- Date: Sunday, April 28
- Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
- Location: Oracle Arena — Oakland, Calif.
- TV channel: ABC
- Live stats: GameTracker
- Online streaming: WatchESPN
- Odds: Will update when available
All games will air on ESPN, ABC, TNT and NBA TV during the postseason. Games on TNT and NBA TV can be streamed via fuboTV (try it for free).
Playoff series schedule
All times Eastern
- Game 1 (at GS): Sunday, April 28, 3:30 p.m. — TV: ABC
- Game 2 (at GS): Tuesday, April 30, 10:30 p.m. — TV: TNT
- Game 3 (at HOU): Saturday, May 4, 8:30 p.m. — TV: ABC
- Game 4 (at HOU): Monday, May 6, 9:30 p.m. — TV: TNT
- Game 5* (at GS): Wednesday, May 8, TBD — TV: TNT
- Game 6* (at HOU): Friday, May 10, TBD — TV: ESPN
- Game 7* (at GS): Sunday, May 12, TBD — TV: TBD
Odds and Analysis
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Warriors: Golden State looked to have flipped the switch toward the end of the regular season, but they had two poor efforts in their opening-round series against a tough Clippers team, and lost DeMarcus Cousins for the postseason in the process. Now the Warriors face a hungry Rockets team that’s been waiting for revenge since last year. If the Warriors can keep their focus every game and avoid letdowns, they still have the slight advantage on paper. But they won’t be able to get away with any mental lapses against Houston the way they did against the Clippers.
Rockets: After a disappointing start to the regular season, Houston has hit its stride at the perfect time. Behind Harden’s phenomenal individual season, the Rockets were one of the best teams in basketball in the second half and carried the momentum into the playoffs. Their analytics-driven, 3-point and isolation-heavy system might not be the most aesthetically pleasing to some, but it’s clicking on all cylinders heading into the series. They’ll just hope to avoid prolonged cold stretches, like the infamous one that sunk them in last year’s Game 7 against Golden State.
Matchups to watch
1. James Harden vs. all the Warriors: You can put whomever you want on Harden, but the Rockets will seek out whichever matchup they want to exploit. The Warriors may resist switching all picks given Harden’s unique ability to exploit mismatches, but eventually he’ll find a matchup that he likes and go to work. Making Harden’s life as difficult as possible will be priority No. 1 for the Warriors this series.
2. Stephen Curry vs. Chris Paul: They may not guard each other all the time, but the winner of the Curry-Paul matchup could very well dictate the winner of the series. As we’ve seen for years, the Warriors tend to go as Curry goes. When he’s rolling, Golden State is nearly impossible to stop, so the Rockets will craft schemes and make adjustments to get the ball out of his hands. On the other side, Paul has ripped the Warriors in pick-and-roll in the past, an area where Golden State struggled against the Clippers’ Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. If Paul has a strong series, it means the Rockets’ offense is humming.
3. Kevin Durant vs. PJ Tucker: If the Rockets game plan to stop the Warriors shooters, that will leave much of the scoring burden on Durant’s shoulders — as we saw in last year’s series. He’ll face isolation situations, which is no easy task with Tucker guarding him. Tucker gives up quite a few inches, but is one of the toughest, most physical defenders in the league. The Rockets will be fine giving up points to Durant, as long as they come in an inefficient manner. It will be up to Durant to find a blend of shot selection and facilitating to keep the Warriors in rhythm.
Series prediction, pick
Warriors in seven: This is going to be a bloodbath, and possibly the best series we see all postseason. The Rockets really do have what it takes to beat the Warriors, but when both play their best the Warriors are still the better team. Assuming the Warriors play with focus and intensity the whole time, they get the slight edge — but it certainly won’t be easy. Ultimately this will come down to Golden State getting Game 7 at home, and they’ll ride that to the conference finals.