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Gamethread: Warriors at Rockets, Part Three

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The Western Conference’s elite battle in a key tiebreaker.

Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Tonight’s matchup between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets is more than just a battle of two of the league’s top teams. It’s a game that has some pretty serious implications.

This game could mean a lot in the standings. The Warriors are currently 4.5 games up on the Rockets for the top seed in the West. That may seem like a lot, but keep in mind that Houston has been excellent when healthy, and could go on a serious run if they can stay upright.

And one injury could slow the Warriors’ run, not to mention all the late season rest they’ll likely give their starters. In other words, the top seed far from clinched.

With a win, the Rockets would move to within 3.5 games of the Warriors, but it’s really more like 2.5. This is the third and final matchup between the two teams, and they split the first two games.

That means that the winner of this game holds the tiebreaker, and would earn the West’s top seed should the teams finish with identical records.

It’s also the first time that these two top teams will battle with their stars healthy. In their first matchup, an opening day 122-121 Houston win, Chris Paul injured his knee, and was far off his game.

The second matchup, a 124-114 Golden State victory, was played with neither Kevin Durant nor James Harden. The teams should be at mostly full strength for this game, though Houston is without Trevor Ariza, who is suspended for a bizarre postgame altercation with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Hang on to your hats, folks. This game features the two best teams in the NBA, six of the top players in the league, and two of the better coaches. And it very well may be a teaser for the Western Conference Finals.