As we stand, both teams are 1st in each of their respective conference, and they are slated to play on March 9th. Why not give it a look and just imagine what this matchup is going to be like...
Yes, this may sound far-fetched, but lets take a magic ride through an slightly alternate dimension where this is 100% real. You close you eyes and you click on your screen, whether it is the TV or however you will stream the game, and you see the graphic of the NBA Finals being displayed as the announcers say, "This is the NBA Finals, as we get set for Game #1 as the Houston Rockets host the Toronto Raptors!" Sounds a bit weird right? Especially since everyone is on the Warriors-Cavaliers Part #4 train. I am on the record as saying the Rockets will beat the Warriors, however, I am not on the Raptors hype train (trust issues).
No I am not saying that both Golden State not Cleveland died in a fiery plane crash... I am saying that there is the real possibility that both these teams could win their respective conferences. Just Imagine James Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela going up versus the 3rd best defense in the league. Imagine the rookies of Jakob Poeltl and Fred VanVleet going up against the depth of the Rockets. The great up tempo and back and forth structure this game would bring would lead to a tremendous series.
The Rockets are on a 17 game winning streak, and the Raptors have won 13 of the past 14. With Toronto's win the other night, they became the first team in the NBA to clinch a playoff spot. For Toronto, they have now made the playoffs for 5 straight years and according to ESPN they had only made it 5 times in the previous 18 years before this streak. Houston has the best win % in the league and Toronto is 3rd which matches great with the rankings for their point differential where Houston is +8.9 and Toronto is +8.6, tops in the league.
That's right both teams are the cream of the crop right now and peaking at a great time as both teams will look to win the easy games and rest starters when they can as the head towards the playoffs. As I stated earlier, I love the Rockets to win the West, most call me a fool and a dreamer, but accordingly to John Lennon I'm not the only one.
As you can see from the graphic, when the big 3 for Houston play together they are an outstanding 33-1(!!!). Chris Paul has been a tremendous piece that has been added next to James Harden. The Rockets have a bonafied, scoring threat ball-handler in Paul. CP3 has the 2nd best Offensive Rating in the League with 117, 3rd best Net Rating with 13.4, and 5th best Assist Rating with a 39.5 (basically he is playing amazing offense, great defense, and is finding the open man who is making a great shot). The recipient of most of those passes has been Clint Capela. He is cashing in with the best Effective Field Goal Percentage at a rate of 65.4%. Then there is the front-running MVP candidate in James Harden. The dude is on fire with scoring this season. He has the best Player Impact Rating of 19.3 and averaging 30.9 points per game. He is also 3rd in the league in assists per game with 8.9 and he has made the most 3's in the entire league with 226. Even if the 3 don't play together, they have another 18 wins for a total of 51 wins so far this season. They are thriving with the long-ball shooting roughly 43 a game. (Sorry I went on a nerd rant about them, but at the rate they are playing, how could you not fall in love with the metrics and see how they can seriously challenge the Warriors).
Now for the boys from the North. Yes they are kinda the same, the 1 piece away team that you can't fully trust yet, but if you watch their games they have started to flip a switch. They used to buy into that mantra of 1 piece away and started to coexist and thrive on what they have. The biggest change, you ask? They are emulating the style of play that is helping the NBA thrive, the 3 point, up-tempo aggressive style of play. They have gone from 24 3's per game to now close to 33 per game which is 3rd in the NBA and making 35%. The most amazing thing is how crazy deep and lights out the bench has been. Toronto has the best bench in the league in terms of Net Rating. The success with the backup crew has been fueled by 30-year-old C.J. Miles and 23-year-old Fred VanVleet. Miles and VanVleet are all hovering around 40 percent from 3, while the length of players like Pascal Siakam and Delon Wright have been fueling the bench defense, which is tops in the league. They are averaging 1.01 Points Per Possession, 3rd in the league, and they have the NBA's best in And-One Frequency.
After reading everything that I have laid out in front out you, wouldn't this match up lead to a great paced game? I know its very hard to believe, seeing as most people believe in Finals Part 4. I'm not trying to suede you to change your minds. Yes, I understand the futility of the exercise, but both of these teams are giving people a lot to think about. Why can't we imagine the top 2 teams in the league meeting in the NBA Finals?
Hopefully the game on Friday can live up to the expectations that I have laid out, a top-tier offense from Houston and a top-tier all-around team from Toronto. And hopefully, they can create lots of drama in the playoffs and give us great series to watch and they aren't blowouts for either team.
Be sure to watch every Friday around 9:30ish on Facebook Live for the show, and if you can't watch be sure to listen to the podcast. Let me know your thoughts on anything above or any NBA talk. You can leave me a comment or on the Drunk Line: 440.37.DRUNK.