For fans that are all about offense, the game between the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors on March 8 should be tons of fun. These two teams have faced one another twice already this season, with the Rockets winning both times.
However, Round 3 is about more than just winning for Golden State. The Warriors have won two in a row, but have to fight off the hard-charging Rockets that are just two games behind them in the conference standings.
This means that in a battle of teams that like to run, it's all going to be about which squad can get it done better and more accurately. Defense is sure to play some sort of role, but not one that is going to make a difference by the final buzzer.
Thus, fans should prepare themselves for a good old-fashioned shootout, which is always fun to watch.
Time: Friday, March 8, 10:30 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN, CSN Houston, CSN Bay Area HD
Records: Houston Rockets (33-29) vs. Golden State Warriors (35-27)
Injuries: Brandon Rush (knee, out), via ESPN
Key Storyline: Golden State Seeks Round 3 Victory With High-Octane Win
Both the Rockets and Warriors like to play a fast-paced offensive game, and their first two meetings gave the fans just that.
Round 1 took place on Feb. 5 at the Toyota Center, and it was a notable game for Houston. Not only did the Rockets win 140-109, but the team tied the record in sinking 23 three-pointers. Jeremy Lin led the way with 28 points and nine assists, while the Warriors were led by 20 bench points from Jarrett Jack.
Houston once again proved to be the superior squad in Round 2 on Feb. 12. Led by 27 points from James Harden, the Rockets won 116-107. To Golden State's credit, point guard Stephen Curry managed to score 27 points to help keep the Warriors alive from start to finish.
Round 3 is set to be far different from any other. Not only are the Rockets a different team since the trade deadline, having acquired Thomas Robinson from the Sacramento Kings, but they have finally gotten out of the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.
Granted, the No. 7 spot is not that big of a leap, but progress is progress in the highly competitive West. That said, a win tonight means winning the season series against Golden State, which means that the scoring has to be in top form and the defense at the best it can be.
Seeing as how Golden State is fighting to stay at No. 6 in the West, this game should provide the fans plenty of fireworks.
Key Matchup: Jeremy Lin vs. Stephen Curry
The Rockets do not have a strong defense and rank 29th in points allowed, but defense is going to be critical in the game's key matchup.
Look at it this way: In order to have a shot at winning, the Rockets would take a giant step in the right direction by containing Stephen Curry, even if it's just for a short period of time. The former Davidson standout is one of the most electrifying scoring point guards in the game and has truly established himself among the elite this season.
Curry is averaging 22.1 points and 6.7 assists per game, and is shooting 44.5 percent from the field. On top of that, he's second in three-point percentage at 45 percent and has also posted 1.7 steals per game.
Over his last five games, Curry's numbers have been MVP-like. Through that stretch, he is averaging 29.6 points and 8.2 assists per game, shooting 47 percent from the field and 49 percent from downtown.
Houston's Jeremy Lin is not as strong a scoring point guard, averaging just 12.7 points and 6.2 assists per game, but his defense has been notable this season. The Harvard grad's 1.8 steals per contest rank him seventh in the league, and he's going to need a strong performance in that department to ensure another Houston victory.
This means pressuring Curry from the start and forcing him to make a mistake. He already averages 3.1 turnovers a game, so the more pressure, the better.
So long as Lin can keep Curry in check while also doing his best to keep up on offense, Houston has a shot at winning the game. Otherwise, Golden State could very well run the table.
X-Factor: Chandler Parsons
This game is going to be all about offense, and second-year forward Chandler Parsons has been the definition of that as of late. The former Florida Gator is averaging 15.2 points and 5.5 rebounds this season, and has also managed to shoot 48.5 percent from the field and 39 percent from long range.
Over his last five games, however, Parsons has been borderline unstoppable. He is averaging 24 points per game over that stretch, shooting an incredible 63 percent from the field and 58 percent from three-point range.
This exemplifies the type of player that Parsons is. Not only is he a good shooter, but he also can drive the lane hard and create off the dribble if need be. More importantly, he never stops wanting to improve and become a better player.
Against Golden State, he'll need to be in top offensive form. This means mixing up his approach and constantly keeping the Warriors guessing. If he can get into a groove and make all of the shots he needs to make, then the Rockets can definitely win.
However, should he get stuck in one gear, Golden State can exploit that and run their way to victory, finally avenging earlier losses to the Rockets.
Predicted Starting Lineups
PG: Jeremy Lin
SG: James Harden
SF: Chandler Parsons
PF: Donatas Motiejunas
C: Omer Asik
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF: David Lee
C: Andrew Bogut
The Rockets would love to win this game and continue to gain ground in the West, but this isn't going to be their night. With home court advantage, the Warriors will run the table, not to mention run-and-gun their way to a victory.
Stephen Curry will fight past Jeremy Lin's defense and have yet another epic scoring night, sinking three-pointers and driving the lane with ease. On defense, he will be in great form and force enough turnovers that the Warriors can turn into scoring opportunities. With a great deal of help from Klay Thompson and David Lee, as well as others, this will be the Warriors' game for the taking.
That isn't to say that the Rockets will get blown out. To their credit, they will be able to keep the game close thanks to solid scoring performances from James Harden and Chandler Parsons.
Unfortunately, their weak defense will come back to bite them as Golden State goes on a run in the fourth quarter that allows them to pull away and seal the victory. The Warriors will thus win their third game in a row, while Houston can only watch their loss come to them.
Golden State Warriors 117, Houston Rockets 110