OAKLAND -- As much as Clint Capela and numerous NBA observers want to believe otherwise, the Warriors are no more worried about the Houston Rockets than they are the Denver Nuggets or the Miami Heat.
It's not a disrespect thing. The Warriors lost two of three regular-season games against Houston. They know the Rockets are dangerous but simply do not believe they have the goods to beat them in a seven-game series.
Privately, the Warriors think a seven-game series against the Thunder would present a greater challenge.
Which is why Kevin Durant was so insouciant Monday.
Responding to the brazen words of Clint Capela, who claimed the Rockets have moved ahead of the Warriors in the race for NBA supremacy, Durant didn't even bother to conceal his grin. He had fun with Capela's opinion, calmly ridiculing him as a guy riding in a third-row seat while James Harden and Chris Paul take turns driving.
"They should feel confident," said Durant of the Rockets. "Obviously we're confident. We feel as though we're the best team in the league. We can beat anyone as well."
Warriors coach Steve Kerr giggled at the notion of using Capela's words as bulletin board material.
"They are definitely a challenge," Kerr said of the Rockets. "There are plenty of challenges out there. They're a good team. So is Boston. So is Cleveland. So is OKC. So is San Antonio. So is Toronto. There are a lot of good teams out there and each one poses different threats and different challenges."
That was Kerr, covering all meaningful bases.
So let's take a look, in alphabetical order, at the six teams Kerr mentioned and use a 1-5 scale (5 being the biggest threat) to measure their threat level in a postseason series.
BOSTON: The Celtics have a terrific coach, a wonderful defense and a beatable offense. There are not many teams the Warriors physically match inside, but this is one of them. Kyrie Irving is a load, a beast in the clutch. Marcus Smart is their younger and more aggressive answer to Andre Iguodala. The Celtics are 18th in forcing turnovers, 25th in field-goal percentage, 27th in points off turnovers and 29th in paint points. Threat level: 3.5
CLEVELAND: Despite playing them only twice in the regular season, the Warriors know the Cavaliers better than any team in the league. Opponent evaluation is never more intense than in The Finals. The Warriors are 11-7 against Cleveland in Finals games. Then, too, the Cavaliers, as currently constituted, with such vapid defense, are ripe to be bounced by the first team that comes in fearless. Threat level: 1.5
HOUSTON: The Rockets are the jump-shooting team that many think the Warriors are. Houston is 24th in paint points. More important, they are 12th in defense. We're still waiting for the year and the postseason series in which Harden and Paul can avoid an epic meltdown. Houston is improved over last season, but have far too many issues to ignore. Threat level: 2.5.
OKLAHOMA CITY: The Thunder was a mess early this season. Carmelo Anthony brought his isolation game, Paul George struggled to find his place and Russell Westbrook went about things as if it were last season. But the defense was always well above average. Now, though, Anthony has adjusted, George -- perhaps the league's best answer to Durant -- is involved and Westbrook has fewer me-against-the-world moments. And OKC is third in defensive rating and 18-8 since the calendar flipped to December. Threat level: 3.5.
SAN ANTONIO: Kawhi Leonard is the wild card. If he's healthy and productive, the Spurs are a completely different, and much more imposing, bunch. But he's neither. Because the Spurs still defend (No. 2 in defensive rating) they are too good to be ignored. But they have trouble defending teams that push the pace; the Warriors and 76ers each hung 112 points and the Rockets torched them for 124. The Spurs are only as dangerous as Leonard can make them. Threat level: 3.0 with Leonard, 1.0 without him.
TORONTO: Lions in the regular season, lambs in the postseason. That's the knock on the Raptors, and it's justifiable. They usually are afflicted with an acute case of LeBronaphobia. This might -- might -- be the year they can avoid the Cavs, in which case they might actually make some noise behind their top-5 backcourt. They can't be trusted in May, much less June, until they find their inner gangster. Assuming there is one. Threat level: 2.5.