Warriors are benchmark for rest of NBA

The Houston Rockets will hope the acquisition of All-Star Chris Paul will tip the scales in their favour in the Western Conference as they try to match the Golden State Warriors.
The Houston Rockets will hope the acquisition of All-Star Chris Paul will tip the scales in their favour in the Western Conference as they try to match the Golden State Warriors.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Coach Kerr taking nothing for granted in title defence, tells players to focus on the details

OAKLAND (California) • The Golden State Warriors begin the National Basketball Association (NBA) season with the aim of clinching a third title in four seasons, and one of their possible obstacles - the Houston Rockets - stands in their way in the opening game today.

With the same strong core that was totally dominant on their path to winning the championship last campaign, however, it is hard to see anyone catching the Warriors.

"Golden State set the bar really high," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said on CBS Sports regarding his team responding to last season's 55 wins - third best in the NBA - with significant changes.

"It's been great for basketball. It is good for basketball. And now, you just gotta catch them somehow. It's not easy. We're chasing maybe one of the best teams ever in the history of basketball."

Houston defeated Golden State 132-127 in their first regular-season clash in Oakland last season, but the Warriors were superior in the next three head-to-heads.

The Rockets were also disappointed when they failed to make the Western Conference Finals, and they have reinforced themselves to put up a stronger challenge this term.

A TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW

It's been great for basketball. It is good for basketball. And now, you just gotta catch them somehow. It's not easy. We're chasing maybe one of the best teams ever in the history of basketball.

MIKE D'ANTONI, Houston Rockets head coach, on the difficulty in closing the gap on defending champions Golden State.

The most notable change of D'Antoni's team is the acquisition of nine-time All Star Chris Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers in an attempt to team up with Most Valuable Player (MVP) runner-up James Harden.

The Rockets hope that they will be capable of matching the firepower of the Warriors' Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Paul has been fairly successful when it comes to facing Golden State. His 22.8 scoring average in 38 meetings with Steve Kerr's team is his highest against any side.

However, the Warriors have been a top-five team in defensive efficiency in the past four years.

Last season, the Warriors led the NBA in defensive field-goal percentage (43.5 per cent), steals (9.57 per game) and blocks (6.77).

Conversely, the Rockets fared 26th in points allowed (109.6) and 23rd in defensive field-goal percentage (46.3 per cent).

But Houston are dangerous themselves on the offensive end. They trailed only the Warriors in total offence (115.3 points per game), while Harden ranked second in the NBA in scoring (29.1), ranked first in assists (11.2) and first in free-throw attempts (10.9).

Kerr said: "Our whole identity is to be really good on both sides. We've been blessed with a good roster the last two years with two-way players. Top five in offence and defence. We always think we can make an impact defensively.

"They're going to be really hard to guard. But we've got to do a good job and be able to defend their strengths and we're confident we can do a good job."

Two-time NBA MVP Curry added that Kerr has told his players to "focus on the details" if they wish to be stronger than they already are.

He added to CBS Sports: "What do you tell a team that's won 67 games, or 65-plus the last three years, two championships?

"It's basically about the details and the fine points of our offence... cutting hard, setting screens for each other, the counters that we're going to add to our offensive sets.

"All those little things are built on the foundation that we set last year, and obviously Kevin (Durant) is a part of that. We all are. So it's kind of good to put that in the right perspective."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2017, with the headline 'Warriors are benchmark for rest of NBA'. Print Edition | Subscribe