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sport / / BANG: Stage set for Warriors-Rockets matchup with major play-in ramifications

o BANG: Stage set for Warriors-Rockets matchup with major play-in ramificationsAllen

BANG: Stage set for Warriors-Rockets matchup with major play-in ramifications


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From: (Allen)
Subject: BANG: Stage set for Warriors-Rockets matchup with major play-in
Date: Thu, 4 Apr 2024 16:33:30 -0700
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 by: Allen - Thu, 4 Apr 2024 23:33 UTC

Stage set for Warriors-Rockets matchup with major play-in ramifications
The Warriors can effectively lock up a play-in spot with a win in Houston
>Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry #30 brings the ball down court as
he’s guarded by Houston Rockets’ Dillon Brooks #9 and Fred VanVleet #5
in the first quarter of their NBA game at the Chase Center in San
Francisco, Calif., on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News

Danny Emerman is a Bay Area News Group sports reporter
By DANNY EMERMAN | | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: April 4, 2024 at 5:40 a.m. | UPDATED: April 4, 2024 at 3:21 p.m.

Seven games still remain for the Warriors, but the suddenly clicking
club can essentially secure a play-in spot on Thursday in Houston.

A win against the Rockets at the Toyota Center would vault the Warriors
four full games ahead of Houston in the standings. The Warriors already
own the tiebreaker against the Rockets, so their lead would effectively
be five games with only six left on the schedule, making the Warriors’
path to falling completely out of the playoffs akin to filling out a
March Madness bracket with a perfect Final Four.

Every game has been crucial for the Warriors for weeks. They put
themselves in that position by failing to protect their home court,
blowing several big leads, and losing Draymond Green for a quarter of
the season. A conference Steve Kerr has called the deepest he’s ever
seen hasn’t helped their cause.

And while every game after the All-Star break has required a heightened
sense of urgency from Golden State, none have the type of direct,
tangible ramifications as the Rockets tilt.

The Rockets surged in March by winning 11 straight games and drawing as
close as a half-game behind Golden State for 10th in the West. But now,
after the Rockets have lost two straight and the Warriors have won five
in a row, Golden State can bury them.

“Tomorrow will be an opportunity to end their season, their playoff
hopes,” Draymond Green said on his podcast.

Although the current Rockets aren’t the same as the squads of yesteryear
that met Golden State in intense playoff series, there’s bad blood.

As the Rockets tore through a soft pocket of their schedule and hoisted
themselves up into striking distance of the Warriors, Green said he
didn’t “give a damn” about them. Soon after, Rockets forward Tari Eason
taunted them in a social media video with the classic Warriorrs! Come
out to Playy!

Houston also employs Dillon Brooks, who injured Gary Payton II in the
2022 Western Conference semifinals and routinely instigated the Warriors
when he played for Memphis.

The on-court drama is even more compelling. Houston lost star center
Alperen Sengun to a serious ankle injury on March 12, but then ripped
off eight straight victories without him. Young guard Jalen Green is
playing at by far the highest level of his career, averaging 30.8
points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting over 50% from the
field and 40% from 3 since Sengun’s injury.

Green will be a handful for Golden State, which has meanwhile found its
defensive footing. In their past five games, the Warriors rank second in
the NBA in defensive rating (102.9). They’ve coalesced behind a
dialed-in Draymond Green, a bigger role for Trayce Jackson-Davis, a
commitment to tracking back in transition. (The NBA’s new environment
with fewer foul calls has also helped Golden State, historically a
high-foul defense.)

Once the best rivalry in the NBA, Warriors-Rockets begins a new,
strange chapter
Warriors provide proof of concept with defensive gem against Mavericks
Draymond Green will not let the Warriors go down without a fight
Warriors overcome big Doncic night to beat Mavericks, earn 5th
straight win
Jonathan Kuminga nearing return for Warriors

They’ll also return probably their best athlete in Jonathan Kuminga, who
has missed the past four games with bilateral knee tendinitis. Kuminga,
Payton and Andrew Wiggins will likely be the three primary on-ball
defenders tasked with slowing down the dynamic Green.

Since the All-Star break, both the Warriors and Rockets have won 14
games — tied for fourth-most in the NBA. The Warriors rank 13th in net
rating in that stretch, a hair above the Rockets in 14th. They’ve been
about as evenly matched in the second half of the year as possible.

The Rockets put a real scare in the Warriors with their run up the
standings. Missing even the play-in round would be an apocalyptic event
for a team with the largest payroll in league history.

Golden State can put all that in the past with a win. As Green said, the
Warriors can end the Rockets’ season. And then, after weeks of peeking
back over their shoulders, they could focus on moving up the play-in

sport / / BANG: Stage set for Warriors-Rockets matchup with major play-in ramifications


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