Kurtenbach: Once the best rivalry in the NBA, Warriors-Rockets begins a new, strange chapter

The Warriors and Rockets will play a season-defining game Thursday night in Houston.

How often have I written a sentence like that over the last decade?

Too many to count.

So why does this time feel so different?

Or, more specifically, why does this showdown not produce any feelings?

The Warriors and the Rockets were once rivals of the highest order. Their adversarial relationship wasn’t as simple as the team teams playing each other often in the playoffs, it was larger, if not downright ideological.

The Warriors won’t publicly admit it because it’s not couth — the NBA is a so-called “brotherhood,” after all — but this core didn’t pull punches behind the scenes. They hated the James Harden-led Rockets. They despised them. And they weren’t always good at hiding it.

And the Rockets, bless them, hated the Warriors back.

It was the kind of hate between two teams that makes sports great.

Houston thought the Warriors were pretentious front-runners. The Warriors thought the Rockets were styleless hacks.

Both were probably right.

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Of course, history is written by the victors and not those who miss 27 straight 3-pointers, so the Warriors’ narrative of events is the official record.

But if styles make fights, the Warriors and Rockets’ contrast set up elite showdowns. The personalities only added to the spectacle. As much as Golden State’s annual meetings with LeBron James and the Cavs were the defining matchups of the aughts, the real NBA Finals were often played between the Warriors and Rockets.

Those series built up enough vitriol to last decades.

But while Draymond Green, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Chris Paul are still part of the Warriors-Rockets proceedings, none of that bile has made it to 2024.

“I don’t give a damn about the Rockets,” Green said last month.

It makes me miss the old days.

My, how things have changed.

Green wasn’t posturing with that comment, though. He really didn’t care about the Rockets.

Perhaps for good reason, too.

Thanks to a five-game win streak, the Warriors can effectively end the surging Rockets’ chances to make the postseason on Thursday. The Rockets can make the Warriors perspire as they fight for the final spot in the Western Conference postseason.

This is a big game, yet no baggage is attached to it. Jerry Seinfeld was wrong — we don’t just root …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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