Warriors star Draymond Green says no other team could beat 2018 Rockets

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Warriors star Draymond Green says no other team could beat 2018 Rockets
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The 2017-18 season remains arguably the biggest “what if?” in Houston Rockets history. They finished 65-17 in the regular season, by far the best record in the NBA that season and in franchise history. But they did not win the title after falling to eventual champion Golden State in a dramatic seven-game series in the Western Conference finals.

The Rockets were one game from advancing, and as for the reason they did not, take your pick. For starters, those Steph Curry and Kevin Durant-led Warriors were one of the most talented teams in NBA history, and they went on to win a third championship in four years.

Beyond that, there was the ill-timed Chris Paul hamstring injury in the final seconds of Game 5, ending his series; the historic outlier of an 0-for-27 cold shooting stretch from 3-point range in a competitive Game 7; and the poor officiating in Game 7, which graded out terribly.

While the Rockets were not technically one victory from a championship — they would still have had to win the 2018 NBA Finals versus Cleveland, even had they won that Game 7 versus the Warriors at home — the reality is that the 2017-18 Rockets were far better than those Cavaliers (50-32), on paper. Even if Paul had not been able to play, James Harden’s MVP presence would still have made Houston a substantial favorite.

Now, almost four years later in an appearance on JJ Redick’s The Old Man & The Three podcast, Warriors defensive ace Draymond Green confirmed the obvious: Those Rockets were almost certainly one win from a title.

I don’t think there was any other team that could have beaten them. Now saying that, you still have to beat LeBron James, which is a very tall task to do. LeBron will walk the ball up the floor every play before he lets you determine the game on your term. I don’t think there was any other team that could have beaten that Rockets team.

James left for the Los Angeles Lakers less than a month after the 2018 NBA Finals, which ended with the Cavaliers swept.

“Our game plan was to let James Harden do everything that he’s going to do,” Green said of Golden State’s strategy versus the Rockets. “We’re probably not going to stop him, and that’s fine, but we’re going to stop everyone else, and then James is going to get tired.”

That plan worked quite well once Harden lost his future Hall of Famer, while the Warriors still had Curry, Durant, Green, and Klay Thompson.

Those comments may add further salt to the wounds for Rockets’ fans, because history almost certainly plays out differently, had that Houston team won it all. With a legacy defining championship run, Harden would almost certainly still be with the franchise, and Paul and head coach Mike D’Antoni might still be next to him, as well. Instead, Harden and Paul are now All-Star guards for Brooklyn and Phoenix, respectively, and the Rockets are in the early stages of a franchise rebuild.

It’s a classic “what could have been” story. But kudos to Green, who certainly played a pivotal role in the intense Houston-Golden State rivalry in those years, for acknowledging just how strong his rival was.

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