Only one team can stop the Golden State Warriors this year and that’s the Houston Rockets according to TV analyst Shannon Sharpe.
The reigning NBA champions have been dogged with injuries which has affected their recent form with four losses in their last six games, the latest of which came Monday night in a 89-75 loss against the San Antonio Spurs.
The loss in Texas was notably the fewest points the Warriors (53-18) have scored since November 2013 and already playing without the likes of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, they received another injury setback when their fourth NBA All-Star in Draymond Green did not return after half-time due to a pelvic confusion.
While he believes injury problems are the biggest threat to the Bay Area side, Sharpe earmarked the Rockets as the biggest opposition threat to a third NBA Playoffs title in four years for the Warriors.
The red-hot Rockets (56-14) currently lead the Western Conference and are likely to finish the regular season as the No. 1 seed with the Warriors’ latest loss putting them 3.5 games behind Mike D’Antoni’s side.
The form of James Harden, averaging 30 points, 5.2 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game, and Chris Paul, averaging 18.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 8 assists per game, in particular, has contributed to a run that has seen them lose just twice in their last 28 games.
“Klay Thompson will be evaluated on the 22nd,” Sharpe said on Undisputed. “They say Steph is going to be evaluated, say, in the next couple of days. Now KD is out, Skip, for two weeks. So all that withstanding, they’re healthy, no one’s beating them.”
“But if I got to pick a team — and I think for the sake of this conversation, you want me to pick a team — I’m going to say the Houston Rockets, because I believe, over the course of 48 minutes, they will get great guard play. Chris Paul and James Harden — James Harden is playing out of his mind. He leads the NBA in scoring. I think he’s third in assists. He’s even rebounding the ball.”
Along with Harden and Paul, Sharpe went on to add the Rockets have the overall personnel to cause the Warriors problems.
“But Skip, the thing that they can do that very few teams can do, especially in the playoffs, Chris Paul — Chris Paul is a great defensive point guard,” Sharpe explained. “Trevor Ariza can play great defense. PJ Tucker can play defense. Clint Capela can play the post. Now, he’s undersized when it comes to big Adams. But Adams is a different monster. So I believe the Houston Rockets, all that being said — Chris Paul and James Harden, if they stay on this current place, they’ll be, I think, the second teammates to average eight assists the more for an entire season. Magic Johnson and Norm Nixon did it ’81, ’82. And I think John Lucas and some Johnny Moore did it with the San Antonio Spurs back in early ’80s.”
“So what you’re going to get — you’re always going to be in great shape. You don’t have to worry about, man, who’s going to initiate the offense if Chris Paul’s off the floor. James Harden. When James is off the floor, who’s going to initiate the offense? Chris Paul,” he added. “So with all that, to get right back to my original point, the Houston Rockets is the team, outside of the Warriors, their health, the Rockies are the team that’s most likely to challenge them for the Western Conference title.”