Post by Miege22 on Apr 18, 2021 20:48:40 GMT -5
WEST: Houston vs. Seattle
How They Got Here
Houston is the #1 seed in the Western Conference, finishing 12-2. They were first in the Midwest Division, and they defeated the 4th-seeded Portland Trailblazers in the last round, 6-3.
Seattle comes in as the #3 seed in the Western Conference, finishing at 10-4. They were first in the Pacific Division. The Sonics defeated the Kansas City Kings in the conference semis.
Regular Season Meeting(s)
These two played in week 12 (Feb. 3-9). The Rockets won, 5-4.
Houston – Kyle Lowry (old – DTD); Steph Cury (ankle – DTD); Jordan Clarkson (ankle – DTD); Damian Lillard (hamstring - DTD); Donte DiVincenzo (toe - DTD); Malik Beasley (hamstring – out)
Seattle – James Harden (hamstring – out); Dennis Schroder (foot - DTD)
HOW DID THESE TWO GET HERE?
The Rockets looked terrifying for much of the season… then the injuries started piling up. The annoying thing, I’m sure, for Houston is that only Beasley is a known quantity from an injury standpoint. Seemingly all the injuries Houston is dealing with are last minute situations. Guys that look like they may or may not play, then get shut down at the last minute. To wit, PJ Washington was probable, then was sat anyway for multiple games. Donte DiVincenzo was fine… until a mysterious toe injury kept him out. Kyle Lowry appeared to be just find coming back from a foot infection, then Toronto decided they wanted to “rest” him. Kawhi had been an iron man, relatively speaking, until he was sat maybe for rest or a foot injury, who knows. The good news for Houston is that Portland was dealing with just as much, if not more, injury/rest shenanigans, and that ultimately allowed Houston to move on. When healthy, this team is a juggernaut, and even with all the missed games, they still smashed all playoff teams in points and threes. However, it’s the other categories that the missed games really come into play…
And that’s because the other categories are where Seattle seems to thrive. The Sonics played the first round without Harden and Ball, and Beal wasn’t quite himself, but they still moved on rather easily. They didn’t score quite as easily, but they led every team in boards, steals and blocks. Given all the injury question marks on the other side, now is the chance for Seattle to strike. If Harden can come back, they may just be the favorite.
WHAT DID THE X-FACTORS/PLAYERS TO WATCH DO?
Well, the player to watch for Houston was Malik Beasley, and if you watched him you were only watching the bench. He got hurt and missed the whole series. The X-Factor, though, did exactly what an X-Factor should do: he won the damn series. For as bad as the Horford and Lowry trades have seemed to go, the Draymond Green trade almost SINGLE-HANDEDLY won this series. The Rockets may still have won with Wendell Carter Jr., but Draymond's contributions in assists, steals and blocks locked up the victory.
For Seattle, we kept an eye on Lonzo Ball, and as is becoming tradition around these parts with our players to watch category, he stunk. He played hurt for two games, shot 38.5% and then proceeded to miss almost the rest of the series. KPJ was the X-Factor, and he was… pretty good, actually. He shot it poorly (41%), but he averaged 16-7.5-6 which was sorely needed
IS THERE HISTORY HERE?
Much like last year, Seattle’s lack of playoff history means that most of their playoff match-ups are going to be new experiences, and this certainly fits that bill. These two have never played each other in the postseason, though they proved to be the two most consistent teams in the West.
WHAT'S AT STAKE?
After having what looked like a championship season cut short by COVID, the Sonics are on the verge of their first “official” Finals appearance. It would be the first time this team has competed in the Finals, and would be a fitting way to finish what they started last year. For Houston, they’re looking to get back to the mountaintop for the first time since 2017. Injuries and the expensive reality of being a title contender set them back since that last trip to the Finals, but they look poised to finally get a second title. They’ve gone all in to do it too, and this off-season is going to be loaded with tough decisions. Of course, none of that matters as much as right now, and right now it’s about getting that ring.