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Preview: Warriors prepare for Rockets and the red hot James Harden

“The Beard” is already talking about taking the next MVP trophy but the champs want to see what the hoopla is all about in Oracle.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Game Details

WHO: Golden State Warriors (25-13) at Houston Rockets (21-15)

WHEN: Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

WHERE: Oracle Arena — Oakland, CA


RADIO: 95.7 The Game

Blog Buddy: The Dream Shake

The “James Harden for back-to-back MVP” train is choo-chooing all across the nation right now.

Wow. “Unanimous” MVP talk, huh? Let’s take a look at the numbers.

Harden is averaging a career high (and league leading) 33.3 points per game. He’s shooting 44 percent from the field and 38 percent from beyond the arc. Add in his 5.8 rebounds, 8.4 assists and 2 steals per game and you can see the makings of an MVP campaign through the first three months of the season. Even more impressive is how he has kept the Rockets treading water in the playoff chase out West despite fellow All-Star Chris Paul suffering yet another hamstring injury.

In the five games since CP3 limped off the court for an extended absence, Houston is undefeated. It hasn’t been a cakewalk either: they overcame San Antonio, Boston, Oklahoma City, New Orleans and Memphis.

In those wins, Harden has averaged 41.8 points and shot 41 percent from downtown. He almost singlehandedly destroyed those teams in succession, and those are all teams with serious playoff aspirations. Well done, Beardy.

Meanwhile in the Golden Empire...

The Warriors are on the quest for their fifth consecutive Finals trip. They have also dealt with injuries to All-Stars, as Stephen Curry and Draymond Green missed several games. The Warriors still remain in the fight for the #1 seed in the West and are effectively in the driver’s seat to take it with the not-too-distant return of DeMarcus Cousins. But the Warriors are far too used to occupying said driver’s seat and sometimes traveling the long, monotonous road back to the NBA Finals can induce an absent-minded drowsiness.

The Warriors have to stay relatively alert if they want to stop the red-hot Rockets tonight. The champs have eliminated the Rockets three times in the postseason, and Houston has been quite vocal about their desperate obsession to dethrone Golden State.

And can you blame them? The Golden Throne is forged partially from the bones of Houston squads past. They will be amped for this game and the Warriors will need a focused effort to get the W. Don’t forget, the Rockets beat the Warriors in Houston earlier this season in a contest Curry missed with injury.

You can bet on the back-to-back champs looking to be the team that Harden doesn’t bomb out in his campaign to be a back-to-back MVP.

Do you know who the last back-to-back MVP was, class? Here’s a hint: the second one was actually “Unanimous”.

Gold-Blooded prediction: The Warriors take turns targeting Harden’s suspect defensive game and then force Harden into something like 13-for-37 shooting with 7 turnovers. And either Draymond Green or Klay Thompson will get a tech for standing in righteous indignation over Harden’s flopping.

Warriors 129, Rockets 114

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