On Saturday, the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors treated viewers to what very well could end up being a Western Conference Finals preview.
Houston walked away with a 116-108 victory and seemed to be in control throughout the contest in front of a raucous home crowd.
The dynamic duo of Chris Paul and James Harden dominated for the Rockets, while youngster Clint Capela had a solid performance on the interior to pace Houston. Paul had 33 points along with 11 rebounds, seven assists and three steals in 35 minutes, Harden had 22 points, two boards, eight assists, two steals and two blocks in 35 minutes and Capela posted 18 points, five rebounds, four steals and a block in 30 minutes.
While Kevin Durant managed 26 points, seven rebounds and five assists and Draymond Green had 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Warriors, the Rockets held Stephen Curry to 19 points on 6-of-20 shooting and Klay Thompson to just eight points on 3-of-11 shooting.
Previously this season, the Rockets beat the Warriors 122-121 on the road in their season opener and fell 124-114 back on January 4 in front of their home fans. Overall, Houston won the season series 2-1.
Despite the small sample size, Capela is confident that Houston is the better team.
“We’re confident because we know if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to beat them. We’ve got to keep playing. We know that they’re going to come back if we have the lead, and we’ve just got to keep that mindset. Sometimes I feel like, in the past, we were all dragging down after mistakes. But today, we were ready,” he said, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.
Capela continued, ”I think that if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do on defense—all the switches, the weak side—and keep playing our offense by keeping that mentality all game long, we have the weapons to beat them. We are better than them.”
The young center’s words will certainly be used as bulletin-board material if the two teams square off again this season. Since they’re not scheduled to play any more regular-season contests against each other, the only possibility that they have to battle again would be in the playoffs.
Now the focus for the Rockets becomes trying to capture the No. 1 seed in the West. If they do, they’ll have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, which could come in handy.
“We’re definitely the best in the league with everybody healthy,” Capela added. “We’ve definitely got a chance to get that one seed back. The thing is, of course, we’re excited because it’s the Warriors, but Monday is an important game, too. If we lose and the [Warriors] win their game, what was the point? The next game, every single time, is going to be the key to go get the No. 1, first seed.”
If the Rockets believe that they’re the biggest threat to the Warriors, potentially playing four games at home instead of three in a seven-game series could be the differentiating factor.