Washington, USA: Defending NBA champion Golden State, seeking a third title in four seasons, faces season wins leader Houston in a tantalizing playoff showdown between a powerhouse Warriors squad and a Rockets team assembled to beat it.
"I like where we are. Our guys have rings. That's a good position to be in," said Golden State coach Steve Kerr.
The Rockets, sparked by NBA scoring champion James Harden, were 2-1 against Golden State in the regular season and went a league-best 65-17 overall, seizing a home-court advantage in the series.
After being ousted from the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs in three of the past four seasons, the Rockets added star guard Chris Paul and 3-point threat P.J. Tucker to join Trevor Ariza, then watched Swiss big man Clint Capela enjoy a career-best season with 13.9 points and 10.8 rebounds a game.
"It's going to be a fight," Capela said. "This team is going to be hard. There are going to be a lot of adjustments after every game. It's going to be a chess game."
The clash between the two offensively explosive teams has been anticipated since the start of the season.
"You wanted us. You got us. Now you've got to play the game," said outspoken Golden State forward Draymond Green. "Their team is built to beat us, their obsession.
"Obviously you want to build your team to beat the defending champs because that's usually how you've got to go to get a championship. Understandable. That stuff has been said for about a year now. It's time to play."
Green says the Warriors are all about adding another title, not ousting imitators.
"We won two championships in three years. We're not about to run off talking about how bad we want to play somebody," Green said. "We want to win another championship and it don't matter who is in the way of that."