Who Has the Advantage in the Western Conference Finals?

Stephen Curry
Steph Curry, John Wall” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors will be facing off in the Western Conference Finals for a spot in the NBA Finals. These are the two best teams in the Western Conference. The Warriors are looking to make it back to the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year, while the Rockets are looking to knock them off and eventually become the defending champs. I’m excited for this matchup. I think it’s a matchup most of us have been wanting and waiting to see all season, and it’s almost here. During the regular season, the Rockets won two of the three meetings, but will it play out the same this time around? I’ve broken down some major categories and compared these two teams in each of them, determining who has the advantage in each.


One of the biggest reasons why the Warriors and Rockets are the two best teams in the Western Conference, is because they can score in bunches. During both the regular and postseason, the Warriors ranked first in points per game. Houston ranked second during the regular season, and are currently ranked third in the postseason. Even though the Rockets are ranked below the Warriors in both the regular and postseasons, they’ve only averaged one less point per game. When you look at the rankings for playoffs teams, the Rockets rank 11th in field goal percentage (44.6%), while the Warriors rank 5th (46.9%). It may seem like there’s a big difference here, but it’s only about 2%. Their field goal attempts per game are right there with each other, with the Warriors attempting 88.3 shots per game and the Rockets attempting 87.4. You could say the Warriors have the advantage because their numbers are slightly higher, but the Rockets are within 1-3 points of each one. No significant difference.

Advantage: Even

Three Point Shooting

When I think of both these teams playing against each other, I can see a three point shoot out happening. With Curry, Durant, Thompson, Harden, Gordon, Paul, and more, there are going to be a lot of three point shots taken in this series. Houston is shooting 35.3% and the Warriors are shooting 32.9% from three point range in the postseason. Houston’s percentage is just over 2% better, so not a significant advantage. The biggest difference comes in three point attempts, which is where the Rockets hold the advantage. The Rockets take an average of 39.9 three point shots per game, while the Warriors average 29.8. That’s 10 more attempts per game for the Rockets. With their 39.9 attempts and 35.3% shooting, the Rockets make about 14 three point shots a game. If you take the Warriors 32.9% shooting and 29.8 attempts, they make about 10 three point shots per game. With four more three points shots made per game, that’s 12 more points on average the Rockets score from three point range.

Advantage: Houston Rockets


Sharing and moving the ball is one of the most important factors for a successful offense. Both teams can move the ball, but they do it in different ways. The Warriors had three guys this season who averaged five or more assists, plus four other players who averaged two or more. This translates to a lot of success as a team, as they’re averaging 28.9 assists per game during the postseason. Houston’s way of getting assists is different. They had two guys who averaged about eight assists, but then only one other player averaged two or more. Their postseason assists number as a team is 20.6. The Warriors have several players who are always moving the ball to find the best shot, while the Rockets have a couple guys who make the passes and the rest catch and shoot. Both styles are obviously working for these teams, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the Conference Finals. While both styles do work, I find the Warriors style to be more effective.

Advantage: Golden State Warriors


Houston allowed an average of 100.1 points per game to their opponents. Golden State has allowed an average of 101.6 points per game. While Houston has allowed less points, they’ve allowed a higher field goal percentage (45.9% vs the Warriors 43%). When it comes to three point percentage allowed, the Warriors have the clear advantage over the Rockets. 32.0% three point percentage is what the Warriors are allowing so far in the postseason. Houston is allowing 38.2% to their opponents. This is perfect for the Warriors. One key to beating the Rockets is to get them shooting a low three point percentage. We know they’re going to take a lot of three point shots, but if they’re missing a lot of those shots, there goes a big chunk of their scoring. The Warriors have been the best team during the postseason of shutting down their opponents from three point range. Both teams average about eight steals per game, so they’re even there. Houston holds an advantage in block per game (6.7 to the Warriors 5.4), but that’s not enough to outweigh the Warriors defensively. Houston has improved defensively this season, but I have to give the advantage to the Warriors.

Advantage: Golden State Warriors


The second best team when it comes to rebounds during the post season has been the Golden State Warriors, averaging 48.5 per game. Houston averages about five less per game with 43.8. Golden State also allows less rebounds per game to their opponents, allowing 42.5 per game compared to Houston’s 44, although that number isn’t as significant. Houston has one very good rebounder in Clint Capela (12.2 per game), and then four other guys who are decent rebounders (4.0 or more per game). The Warriors have one very good rebounder in Draymond Green (11.5 per game), a really good rebounder in Kevin Durant (8.0 per game), and then five decent rebounders (4.0 or more per game). Overall, I think the Warriors can do more damage on the glass than the Rockets can.

Advantage: Golden State Warriors

Free Throws

When we talk about stats that can change a game, we tend to leave out free throws. Free throws are a very underrated game changer. It could be that whoever shoots better from the free throw line in this series wins, you never know. These teams are just about even when it comes to free throws. Houston averages 21.9 attempts, while the Warriors average 21.7. The Warriors are slightly better converting their free throws, shooting 81.6% during the postseason to Houston’s 79.5%. No significant advantage for either team in this category.

Advantage: Even

Ball Security

Houston is the best team in the postseason at securing the ball and making smart passes. They’ve averaged 9.1 turnovers per game, the only team not to average double digit turnovers. The Warriors average 13 turnovers per game, about four more than the Rockets. The way the Rockets can score, especially from three point range, a four turnover difference can be huge. Golden State doesn’t want to give the Rockets more opportunities to score. Perhaps the reason why the Warriors average more turnovers is because they pass the ball a lot more. Their assist to turnover ratio is 2.16, while the Rockets is 2.12. Pretty much the same, but the Rockets don’t pass as much, which has led to less turnovers for them. The Warriors shouldn’t shy away from their passing at all, but they can’t give Houston extra possessions.

Advantage: Houston Rockets

Star Power

Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Four All-Stars. James Harden and Chris Paul. Two All-Stars. When it comes to pure star power, the Golden State Warriors have the Houston Rockets beat. It takes a lot of star power to win in the playoffs. I’m not saying the Rockets can’t beat the Warriors playing with two All-Stars against four, but the Warriors have to feel pretty good about their talent going into this matchup.

Advantage: Golden State Warriors


James Harden has been to the Conference Finals and NBA Finals before, but Chris Paul has never made it to the Conference Finals before this season. In game 5 against the Jazz, Paul looked determined to make it by having a great performance. He’s finally overcome one obstacle, but he still has the challenge of making it to the NBA Finals and then winning a championship. Aside from a few players, pretty much the entire Golden State Warriors team has been to the Finals multiple times and has won at least one championship. The Warriors know what it takes to get to and win a championship, while the Rockets are still in the process of figuring that out.

Advantage: Golden State Warriors

Of the nine categories I have listed, the Warriors take the advantage in five of them. Houston has the advantage in two, with the other two being even. If you throw home court advantage in there, Houston has three. Now just because the Warriors have the overall advantage, it doesn’t mean they’re going to win. It also doesn’t mean I’m picking them to win the series. I could end up going with the Warriors, but I haven’t decided who I’m picking yet. I still have until Monday to make my final decision. Regardless of who I pick or who wins, it should be a very exciting series.

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