Programming note: Watch "Warriors Playoff Central" Monday at 5 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, and immediately after the final horn in Game 4. Both shows will be streamed live right here.
HOUSTON – Secure in the belief that 48 minutes of skillful basketball Monday night would make them Western Conference champions for the first time since 1975, the Warriors are out to sweep the Houston Rockets.
Holding a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, the Warriors have put themselves in fabulous position to achieve that goal. No team has ever come back from a 3-0 hole to win a conference final.
The Rockets have yet to solve the riddle of Stephen Curry, who has lit up Houston with 61.3-percent shooting, including 58 percent from 3-point distance. He’s averaging 35.7 points through the first three games.
Houston was able to overcome a 3-1 deficit against the Los Angeles Clippers in the conference semifinal, but they may have learned in a 115-80 blowout Monday night that the Warriors are not the Clippers.
Warriors by 5.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Klay Thompson vs. James Harden: No longer is this primarily one man against the other, as Thompson is among four defenders the Warriors are alternating against the star guard. The strategy worked marvelously in Game 3, and there is no reason for the Warriors to go away from it now.
Andrew Bogut vs. Dwight Howard: After a poor performance in Game 1, Bogut has recovered and played well in each of the last two games. Howard has been a factor, but Houston needs him to control the paint and he has not been able to do that. All the Warriors need is a standoff and if they get that they almost certainly win.
Stephen Curry vs. Jason Terry/Pablo Prigioni: The Rockets have given Terry plenty of help, most notably forward Trevor Ariza. They’ve practically given up on Prigioni defending Curry. Nothing has worked, as Curry has been the clear MVP of his series. He’s scoring, he’s defending and it’s hard to imagine him backing off in Game 4.
KEYS TO VICTORY
1) Start fast: The Rockets are in such dire straits that an early deficit might be enough for them to raise the white flag. Do they really want to go back to Oracle?
2) Respect the rock: The Warriors’ one-turnover first half in Game 3 was a thing of beauty. With similar ball security, they’ll run away with Game 4.
3) Heavy D: This is the other component that usually assures victory for the Dubs. They don’t have to be special, as they were in Game 3, but they have to be very good.
“It’s a mental challenge, more than anything. It’s holding each other accountable and understanding what’s at stake, understanding the sense of urgency to not give a team life. We see what this team did last series. They’re never out of it, so we have to come out and push each other to be great.” – Warriors guard Shaun Livingston on the closeout mentality ahead of Game 4.
Warriors: F Marreese Speights (strained right calf) is listed as out.
Rockets: G Patrick Beverley (left wrist surgery) and F Donatas Motiejunas (back surgery) are listed as out.
The Warriors hold a 3-0 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 7-0 this season against Houston.