WASHINGTON • For the first time in four years, the Golden State Warriors will start a National Basketball Association (NBA) play-off series on the road.
Seeking a third title in four seasons, the defending champions will be in Houston today (tomorrow morning, Singapore time) for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals to face a Rockets side that were assembled to beat them.
The Rockets, sparked by NBA scoring champion James Harden, were 2-1 against Golden State in the regular season and went a league-best 65-17 overall, seizing a home-court advantage in the series.
But Warriors coach Steve Kerr is comfortable with where his team are at.
"Our guys have rings. That's a good position to be in," he said.
"To me, the hardest championship is the first one, as an individual player and as a team, because you don't know - you don't quite know - if you can do it... Once you get the first one, there's a little bit of house money. But you want it again because it's an unbelievable feeling.
"We're going in here knowing we're the defending champs, knowing we got a couple championships here the last few years. Let's go get another one. It's a nice feeling to have to go into a series with."
Kerr has titles as both coach and player and his only players without a Finals appearance are Jordan Bell, Chris Boucher, Quinn Cook, Nick Young, and Kevon Looney.
Harden is one of just two Rockets with Finals experience, losing to the Miami Heat with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012. Trevor Ariza has been in two Finals with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning in 2009.
After being ousted from the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs in three of the past four seasons, Houston added star guard Chris Paul and three-point threat P.J. Tucker, then watched Swiss big man Clint Capela enjoy a career-best season with 13.9 points and 10.8 rebounds a game.
Paul and Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni are also looking for their first NBA Finals berth.
"We showed all season we match up well with them," said Rockets forward Luc Mbah a Moute.
"We were the best team in the league all year but that's not our goal. Our goal is to go further."
The clash between the two offensively explosive teams has been anticipated since the start of the season. Golden State led the NBA in scoring just ahead of Houston this season.
Now the Warriors rank as the top defensive squad in the play-offs just ahead of the Rockets.
"You wanted us. You got us," said outspoken Golden State forward Draymond Green. "It's time to play."
HOUSTON V GOLDEN STATE
West Finals, Game 1: Singtel TV Ch110, tomorrow, 9am