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Warriors vs Rockets Preview

Can the Warriors keep the winning streak alive against another Western Conference contender?

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It's time for something to give at the top of the Western Conference standings. Right now, the Dallas Mavericks are in 7th despite having a 16-6 record, which roughly translates to a 60-win season. That's just insane, and it explains how the Warriors can be on a 13-game win streak and only be leading the 7th seed by 3 games. How can some of these teams separate themselves from the others? By beating them. The Warriors hope to start beating the best of the West on Wednesday night at home against the Houston Rockets.

Both teams have reputations for being exciting, fast-paced, three-happy offenses, but they are also two of the best defensive squads in the league. The Warriors and Rockets rank 1st and 3rd in the league in defensive rating, respectively. However, the Rockets haven't completely earned their offensive reputation, as they rank 20th in the league in offensive rating and 15th in pace.

The Rockets will be missing the lynchpin of their defense with Dwight Howard out, but the Warriors may also be without theirs. At the time of my writing this, Andrew Bogut is listed as questionable for Wednesday's game after leaving Monday's game against the Timberwolves early with tendinitis bothering his knee. While the Rockets have proved that they can defend well without Howard over the last nine games, the Warriors were not as convincing sans Bogut for most of the Timberwolves matchup. With Bogut's increased offensive role this season, it will be interesting to see how the Warriors can perform without him against a quality opponent.

Especially in the absence of Superman and the Big Aussie, all of the focus will be on the MVP candidates representing each team. Do you mind if I make up the word "LeBronian"? No? Okay, Harden's per game numbers have been straight up LeBronian this season. Part of the reason he's at the top of the league in scoring is because he leads the league in free throw attempts and is shooting them at a 90 percent clip. Klay Thompson will have trouble with his savvy head snaps and lumbering euro-steps, but the Warriors have the luxury of having multiple good wing defenders to throw at Harden.

On the other side of the floor, the Rockets will rely on Patrick Beverley to contain Curry. Beverley is an absolute pest and is not afraid to be under Curry's skin all the way down the court, but against Curry his aggression often works against him. Curry seems to react to Beverley's irritation by showing him up with his handles, and it's likely that Beverley will be facing foul trouble at some point in the game. If so, the Rockets may have to go to Jason Terry or Troy Daniels to guard Curry with Isaiah Canaan out. Curry should fight fire with fire and force Beverley into foul trouble as a way to get to the Rockets' shallow bench of point guards.

This game is the first of four against the impressive Southwest Division, with the next three on the road. One way to look at it is that the Warriors need to keep their win streak alive, but I'm looking at it as the Warriors needing to precede this tough stretch of road games with a home win against a top Western Conference contender. Either way, this one feels important.

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