Houston won a franchise record 65 games this season and it has been suggested it is hungrier for success than Golden State.
The Golden State Warriors will presumably be their opponent in the next round once they close out the New Orleans Pelicans, and that's the matchup we've been waiting all season to see. When the offense of the Pelicans caught fire in game three, the Warriors defense was helpless.
On a night where All-Star running buddy James Harden didn't have it going - just 18 points on 7-for-22 shooting in 35 minutes for the likely 2017-18 NBA Most Valuable Player, Paul took over. This is the kind of superstar a team can build around. It's the second consecutive season the Jazz lost in this round after being swept by Golden State last season.
This series has everything.
If the Warriors successfully defend their National Basketball Association title and go back-to-back, it'll be the franchise's sixth time as the last team standing - and would tie Chicago for the third-most championships in league history, behind the Celtics and Lakers.
"We're confident because we know if we're doing what we're supposed to do, we're going to beat them", he told ESPN.
Houston's James Harden seems like the probable victor of the NBA's MVP award this season, with the only other realistic candidate for top honors probably LeBron James.
In fact, listening to the Warriors talk Thursday, it nearly seemed as if they enjoyed the fact that they don't have home-court advantage in what might be a de-facto NBA Finals. No, this was CP3 at his finest; snaking the pick-and-roll, dominating from midrange, and in true form for this season, firing away from 3-point range.
You would think that the inherent stakes of the NBA Playoffs should be enough to provoke this team, but as we saw in Game 4 of the first round and Game 3 of the second, the Warriors still know how to go into energy-saver mode when they no longer feel threatened. But, how do the teams match up now that they are deep into the playoffs and the Warriors seem to be healthy again?
The Rockets can't ask for much more.
Not only is Golden State threatened, you might want to consider it an underdog.
"That's all fine and dandy in January". You don't know. You don't quite know if you can do it.
If it weren't for a beating-the-Warriors obsessed Rockets team led by general manager Daryl Morey, D'Antoni's career might've petered out. The Rockets sometimes play loosey-goosey with the ball and that could cost them. Gerald Green scored 29 points in his absence and Gordon scored 30. Bill Russell went to 10 straight title series, Sam Jones and Tom Heinsohn went to nine, and Frank Ramsey went to eight.
Head coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors looks on and reacts to the play on the court against the San Antonio Spurs in the first quarter during Game One of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoff at ORACLE Arena on April 14, 2018 in Oakland.
Taking down the defending champions is a daunting task. Their clash has been so anticipated, some are calling it the "real" NBA Finals, owing to the strength of teams in the Western Conference.
Five months later, this clash of titans has finally arrived.
Chris Paul noted after the Rockets won Game 5 that Harden had been playing under the weather, and could use the time off to recover.
To say he was saving his best for last would be an understatement. We don't have to run around talking about how bad we want to play somebody. If you in the way of that, then you happen to be in the way. Instead it was the wily veteran, who gave us glimpses of the Paul we fell in love with early in his career in New Orleans.