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Playoffs 2019

NBA Playoffs 2019: What to watch for in the Warriors-Rockets best-of-seven series

#KD Harden

The first round is now over for the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, who now set their sights on each other in a rematch of last season's Western Conference Finals.

MORE: Warriors-Rockets series preview

Our NBA.com experts take a look at one thing to keep an eye on in a series that's expected to be an all-time classic between two teams who have Championship aspirations.

Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay ): Can Klay Thompson be as effective defensively as he was last year?

I'll have my eye on Klay Thompson this series. He often gets forgotten until the Warriors need to break the emergency glass and watch him go off for a 40 burger in an elimination game. We know about how hot he can run offensively but it's defensively that makes him invaluable.

Last season when these two faced off in an epic seven-game war Thompson had the unenviable task of guarding both James Harden and Chris Paul.

Thompson guarded Harden on an average of 21.6 possessions in the seven-game set last year. He held Harden to just 44% shooting from the field and more importantly just 28.6% from three. He did an even better job on Paul guarding him on an averaged of 20.6 possessions in the five games CP3 played before getting hurt and held him to just 38% and a dismal 25% from three.

Everyone remembers how Klay came up huge with a game-high 35 points in Game 6 when the Warriors were on the brink of elimination, but it was his ability to make life tough for the Rockets' two best players that helped send the Warriors to another Finals appearance. Golden State will need much of the same from one of the best two-way players in the league - who for some reason has never made an All-Defensive team.

Benyam Kidane (@B@BenyamKidane ): How much will Draymond Green's shooting slump matter vs Houston?

Draymond Green has proven over the years that the playoffs are where we see him at his best.

From his high intensity, vocal leadership and defensive presence, Draymond is a guy you want on your team in a Game 7.

It's no secret that he has had his struggles shooting the ball this season, especially from three, with that number dropping from 28.5% in the regular season to 21.4% through the first round of the playoffs, his lowest mark over the past four seasons.

Against most teams, the Warriors can probably get by covering for Green, but against a Rockets team who are launching 43.5 three-pointers per game in the playoffs, this series could turn into a long-range shootout.

The Warriors aren't short on three-point threats with Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson on deck, but the spacing issues that can arise without a big man shooting the ball only get worse, with DeMarcus Cousins sidelined for the remainder of the post-season.

If Green, who is battling a sore right wrist, can knock down open looks from deep, the Warriors offence takes on a whole different look.

Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21 ): The point guard battle between Steph Curry and Chris Paul.

While there isn't much debate surrounding the notion that Curry is currently the best point guard in the league, we sometimes underestimate what Paul has left in the tank.

Yes, Paul will turn 34 during this series and has an unfortunate history of injuries in the postseason, but I've still got my eye on these two. In a way, it's these same unfortunate injuries that have had a hand in clearing the path for Curry to becoming the league's top guard and we aren't that far removed from Paul holding that title.

That dynamic adds a little something extra to this matchup.

When I think back to last year's meeting, the most memorable moment between these two was Paul's Curry-esque shimmy after hitting a Curry-esque shot during his virtuoso performance in Game 5 that led to a Rockets win.

They say "don't poke the bear", but in this moment, Paul clearly didn't care; moments like these show that there truly is something extra there. Curry couldn't help but laugh in the moment and paid respect where it was due postgame. He might not have gotten the last laugh in the series had Paul not gotten injured in the final moments of that same game.

Paul might not unseat Curry as the league's top point guard, but this might be his final shot to have a hand in putting a halt to Curry and the Warriors dynastic run. I'm ready to see the fire from these two competitors.

Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694 ): When it matters the most, will the Rockets live-and-die by the three again?

Even with Chris Paul out for Games 6 and 7 of the Western Conference Finals last year, the Rockets led both games at halftime by 10 and 11, respectively. And it's been well documented how they lost Game 7 at home in Houston - missing 27 consecutive three-pointers, the most in NBA playoff history .

Having said that, the Rockets have been headstrong, all through the season, about their strategy to live-and-die by the three but given what happened last year, will they have a plan B?

If yes, how good would they be on executing that style and if no, is that a concern? Should they have a plan B?

Through the regular season in percentage of points and field goals attempted, the Rockets were 1st from beyond the arc and 30th on 2-pointers .

With their run after the All-Star break (best record of 20-5 ), we know the Rockets have put their early-season struggles behind them, making this Conference Semifinals against the two-time reigning champions a mouth-watering contest to look forward to.

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