Herbert: Rockets (Still) Have Best Chance To Beat Warriors

The Rockets have been far from the best team in the NBA this season, but they still pose the biggest challenge to the Warriors, James Herbert says

After Hours With Amy Lawrence
March 05, 2019 - 8:18 am
James Harden Chris Paul Houston Rockets NBA

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The Golden State Warriors (44-19) are seeking their fourth NBA title in five seasons, but there’s a chance they might not win the West. 

Yes, they still lead the Nuggets (42-21) and Thunder (39-24) by two and five games, respectively, but there’s at least one team that could pose a significant challenge.

“I still think it’s (Houston),” CBS NBA writer James Herbert said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I know the Rockets have not been close to the second-best team in the NBA – or the second-best team in the West this season. But the way that they match up, their game plan against Golden State is going to be the same as what we saw last year. The question is just can they get to that level of production and execution that we saw. If they can, then I think they have a shot. I don’t think it’s a great shot, but (it’s) perhaps better than anybody else in the conference.”

The Rockets came within one game – and perhaps one Chris Paul injury – of dethroning the Warriors last year. Instead, the Warriors won Games 6 and 7 of the Western Conference Finals and swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

The Rockets (38-25) haven’t been nearly as good as last season when they won an NBA-best 65 games, but they’re getting healthy at the right time.

“The only other team that I look at in the West and I think is sort of on that level is Oklahoma City,” Herbert said. “I think looking at how the Thunder plays defense, they’ve improved offensively throughout the season – their three-point shooting was really ugly at the beginning of the year, (but) that’s progressively improved. Paul George is playing the best basketball of his life.”

Indeed, George is averaging 28.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists and has emerged as an MVP candidate. Russell Westbrook, meanwhile, could average a triple-double for the third straight season. He is currently averaging 22.4 points, 11.2 rebounds and 10.8 assists.

“I think their formula against the Warriors will be kind of similar,” Herbert said. “They’re going to try to use their length, their athleticism, they’re going to switch a lot, they’re trying to be super physical with the Warriors and try to get out in transition and get easy buckets that way. I think their identity is something they’ve been building towards over the last few years and they’ve finally sort of come together this year in a way they didn’t last year. 

“So I think the Thunder have that sort of ceiling as a team that could push them,” Herbert continued, “but I haven’t seen it with this group. I saw what the Rockets did to the Warriors last year, and it’s sort of easier for me to envision that happening for them.”