Programming note: Watch "Warriors Playoff Central" tonight at 5 p.m., and immediately after Game 5 on CSN Bay Area. Both shows will be streaming live right here.
OAKLAND – After preparing earlier this week to clinch yet another playoff series on the road, the Warriors now will try to use their home crowd to help them oust the Houston Rockets.
When Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals gets under way Wednesday at Oracle Arena, the Warriors will be seeking their first trip to the NBA Finals since 1975. Their attempt to sweep this series was spoiled when the Rockets bounced back from a Game 3 humiliation to win Game 4 in Houston.
Though history is with the Warriors – no team with a 3-0 lead has ever lost the conference finals – the Rockets have been very resilient this postseason, having faced elimination four times and won all four games.
Stephen Curry, the league MVP, is expected to play normal minutes for the Warriors despite a nasty still in Game 4 that resulted in a head contusion.
Warriors by 10.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Klay Thompson et al vs. James Harden: The Warriors are throwing a platoon of defenders at Harden, sometimes two at a time. They must continue to mix defenses against the Rocket most likely to take over a game. It’s about time for Thompson to find his shot, because that would help neutralize anything Harden’s producing.
Andrew Bogut vs. Dwight Howard: Bogut has been inconsistent in this series, at times a difference-maker and at times a non-factor. Numbers are generally insignificant in this battle. Bogut’s goal against Howard is simple: Keep the Houston big man from dominating the paint.
Curry vs. Jason Terry et al: Curry’s physical status is, by all accounts, just fine. He has throughout this series punished every defender the Rockets have tried, from the small (Pablo Prigioni, Terry) to the tall (Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones). If Curry is on his game, as he was in Games 1-3, Houston has a problem.
KEYS TO VICTORY
1) Hot start: The arena will be rocking, and a rousing start by the Warriors should have the Rockets reeling. A large early lead might just take the fight out of them.
2) Heavy D: The Warriors didn’t bring it all in Game 4 and they paid a heavy price. They know what happens when they lock down, and they usually like the results.
3) Respect the rock: The Rockets will be desperate, so it’s imperative that the Warriors be careful, maintaining composure and making smart, purposeful passes.
“We blew an opportunity in Game 4. We didn’t start off with the intensity level we needed to start off with. So it’s very important to come out and get off to a good start tonight and close the series out tonight. Don’t want to go back to Houston.” – Warriors forward Draymond Green
Warriors: F Marreese Speights (sprained right calf) is listed as out.
Rockets: C Dwight Howard (left knee sprain) and G KJ McDaniels (right elbow fracture) are listed as probable. G Patrick Beverley (left wrist surgery) and F Donatas Motiejunas (back surgery) are listed as out.
The Warriors hold a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, the first postseason meeting between the teams. Insofar as the Warriors won all four regular season games, each by a double-digit margin, they are 7-1 this season against Houston.