For the fourth time in the last five years, the Warriors will square off with the Houston Rockets in the NBA playoffs.
Golden State edged Houston in the first three match-ups, the most recent a seven-game series win in last year's Western Conference Finals. But the Rockets have closed the gap on the Warriors, winning the regular-season series in each of the last two seasons and being the only team to push the two-time defending champions to the brink of elimination since Kevin Durant's arrival.
Now, they like their chances headed into Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Sunday afternoon at Oracle Arena.
"We're a very confident group of guys," Rockets star James Harden told ESPN's Tim MacMahon in Oakland on Saturday. "We've been that way the entire year, and we know what we've been through. And so we know where we're at now, and we're more than capable. We're excited about the opportunity. Like I said, we know the difficulties and the challenges that are going to come that way, but we're prepared for them."
Harden isn't alone in his confidence. Rockets big man Clint Capela told reporters earlier this week that he wanted to play the Warriors, reasoning that the Rockets need to beat the champions in order to take the crown themselves. They've wanted to get this moment all season, with Houston star Chris Paul telling reporters after the Rockets beat the Warriors sans Harden in Oakland in February that taking the regular-season series meant nothing.
The Rockets wanted another kick at the can, and they'll get their wish Sunday.
"We haven't been successful thus far, but we had plenty of opportunities [and] haven't come up on the winning side yet," Harden told reporters Saturday. "It's just another opportunity for us to change that. Obviously, we know how difficult it's going to be, but I think every possession and every game is something different, it's something new. We've just gotta take advantage of the opportunity that we have."
The Warriors could be short-handed in Game 1, as coach Steve Kerr labeled superstars Steph Curry and Klay Thompson as questionable due to ankle injuries they sustained in Friday's Game 6 win over the Los Angeles Clippers to close out their first-round series. Matching Harden's offensive firepower would be far more difficult if that's the case, and give the Rockets more reason to believe their time is now.