3 things to watch in the Rockets-Warriors West finals

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Eyewitness Sports' Bob Slovak looks at Chris Paul's possible impact in the Rockets' game plan vs. Golden State. (KTRK)

Like a sponge, almost every narrative possible has been squeezed out of this dream Western Conference Finals matchup between the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors.

We can spend days and days discussing how we got here, and how this series has been many years in the making, and how the Rockets have a tall task before them despite clinching the number one overall seed.

But, the big picture is two of the best teams in the NBA all season will finally match up beginning Monday at Toyota Center. For Houston, even though the Rockets have homecourt advantage throughout the postseason, almost every pundit and prognosticator have given the advantage to the Warriors.

Strangely enough, if the Rockets do get past the Warriors, there is no telling if they can win another world championship with LeBron James or scrappy young Celtics team looming.

Consider these three things to watch in the possibly epic Western Conference Finals:

Houston's less-than-respected defense

For all the respect that teams give the Warriors for perimeter shooting, it is incumbent on the Rockets to disrupt their stroke.

When Rockets GM Daryl Morey said this year's team was built specifically for the Warriors, he wasn't speaking in hyperbole. The offseason signings of P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute galvanized that declaration.

Both are known to be fierce against anyone handling the ball, especially in the wings.

In addition, if you told us James Harden would be one of the top defenders in the playoffs after gaining a reputation of taking plays off two years ago, we would have said, "Go grow a beard."

But, it is true. Harden is averaging nearly seven-and-a-half steals a game this postseason. Given that the Warriors are averaging more than 13 turnovers a game in their 10 playoff contests so far, the Houston defense could be feasting in this series.

Add Clint Capela's superstar turn as a rim defender, and the Rockets could have the Warriors' threes and lane penetration in check.

Kevin Durant's domination

Like it or not, the reigning Finals MVP's signing with the Warriors in the 2016 offseason gave Golden State even more leverage to become a dynasty for the next several seasons. This year, Durant and the Warriors have a test of their own to support that theory.

The bad news, Rockets fans, is that Durant will be unstoppable this series. And even if he is ineffective on the scoreboard, he has the length and the speed to penetrate the lane. Otherwise, if he gets the space, KD will make you pay, either with perimeter scoring or with a kick-out pass to the bevy of shooters waiting to huck a three-pointer.

Defensive rotation will be key for the Rockets against Durant, who could draw Tucker as his primary defender. The story when it comes to Durant is how contained he can be this series.

James Harden will have to take over

For all the good the Rockets have had spreading the ball, James Harden will need to dominate the game on offense. That doesn't necessarily mean he'll need to attempt 30 three-pointers per game in this series, but he will need to account for much of the points that the Rockets put on the scoreboard.

Isolation is Houston's game, with Harden being king of the "iso." In the regular season, Harden has worked in the isolation 95 percent of his touches. Fifty-one percent of those isolation plays result in scores.

The Warriors are aware of this. While Durant can provide a scare for us, Houston's coaching staff should use Harden to frighten the Golden State D. And even if Harden draws a double team, he is a very effective passer himself, averaging seven assists per playoff game this season, which is good enough for top 10 for the postseason.

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