Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors.

3 big reasons the Rockets can challenge the Golden State Warriors this year

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The Golden State Warriors received their 2017 NBA Finals rings ahead of Tuesday's season-opener against the Houston Rockets, and it looked like the Warriors would keep the good feelings going with an opening-night victory.

However, Houston was able to play spoiler in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Warriors 34-20 in the final period to earn a narrow 122-121 victory at Oracle Arena.

Though the win was a big one for the Rockets, it also goes to show that the Warriors have a legitimate threat in the Western Conference.

The Warriors have advanced to the NBA Finals three straight years, but they'll have their work cut out for them if they want to make it four years in a row.

Behind a big effort from James Harden after Chris Paul went out with a sore knee, the Rockets proved they're a force to be reckoned with in the West.

Here are the three biggest reasons the Rockets pose a serious threat to the Warriors' Western Conference dominance:

Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors

Plenty of offensive firepower

Trailing 101-88 entering the fourth quarter, the Rockets didn't give up, clawing their way back into the game and eventually earning a 122-121 win by outscoring Golden State 34-20 in the final quarter.

When you look at the numbers, the Warriors dominated the Rockets in shooting percentages. The Warriors held a 53.8-48.5 advantage in field goal percentage and also held a 53.3-36.6 edge in three-point percentages.

However, the Rockets kept finding ways to score, and that bodes well for them in the future, as teams are going to need to have multiple scoring threats to beat Golden State.

The Rockets had six players score 10 or more points, with three eclipsing the 20-point mark. That sort of balanced attack made it hard on the Warriors' defense and led to a Houston victory.

Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors

Deep bench

Even with CP3 sitting out in the fourth quarter, Harden and the Rockets were able to mount an impressive comeback.

The Rockets only used an eight-man rotation against the Warriors, but all three players to come off the bench - Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute - scored 14 points or more.

Houston's bench outscored Golden State's bench 58-48, and while Golden State didn't have Andre Iguodala available, the Rockets will only get better as more players work their way into the rotation.

As long as everyone stays healthy and the Rockets are at full strength heading into the playoffs, they'll be a handful for the Warriors.

Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors

They've beaten the Warriors once

Most teams in the Western Conference can't do what the Rockets did on Tuesday night, as the Warriors don't make a habit out of losing games.

In fact, last year during the playoffs, the Warriors went 12-0 against Western Conference teams, sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs to reach the Finals.

Therefore, picking up a season-opening victory against the best team in the NBA will only serve to make the Rockets more confident.

If these two teams meet in the playoffs, the Rockets will have the confidence to go into the fourth quarter knowing they can pull off a win, even at Oracle Arena.

NBA Playoffs
Golden State Warriors
Pacific Division
Western Conference
Houston Rockets
Southwest Division
James Harden

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