Question 1: Who is going to (or who can) guard LaMarcus Aldridge?
If Aldridge can’t be productive in this series then he’s either hurt or needs to retire. Ryan Anderson is too light and Aldridge can bring Clint Capela out of the paint and have his way with him. This is the ideal matchup for Aldridge and the Rockets need to minimize his production as much as possible. It will also be interesting to see how the Rockets’ handling of Aldridge impacts the ghosts of Pau Gasol and David Lee in the paint.
Question 2: How often will Kawhi Leonard guard James Harden?
Arguably the best defensive player in the NBA vs. Arguably the best offensive player in the NBA, these are the matchups you love to see in the NBA Playoffs, but it’s impossible to expect Leonard to do it over the course of an entire game without getting into foul trouble or collapsing from exhaustion. The hype will be centered around the two superstars in the series and it will be fun to see them do battle in crunch time.
Question 3: How much can the Rockets capitalize on their significant backcourt advantage?
Father time has caught up with the Spurs guards you’re used to seeing succeed this time of the year and the other guys in the rotation are role players. If all of the backcourt participants in this series were thrown into a draft pool the first four selections might be Rockets, the Rockets advantage in guard depth is significant. Tony Parker is San Antonio’s second leading scorer in the playoffs averaging 16.3 points per-game, but he had a scoreless game in San Antonio’s first round series against Memphis. Manu Ginobili is averaging 2.3 points per-game in 15 minutes. As for the Rockets, the top-four guards in Houston’s rotation are averaging a combined 77.2 points in the playoffs (Harden 33.2, Lou Williams 18.8, Eric Gordon 13.6 and Pat Beverley 11.6).
Question 4: Can Trevor Ariza play like a winning piece instead of a liability?
Ariza will be counted on to guard Leonard the majority of the time, which is no easy task. Ariza also shot 18% from 3-point range in the first round, which is awful under any circumstance, but flat-out pathetic when you consider that the overwhelming majority of his looks are wide-open. Ariza has to be better for the Rockets to beat beat San Antonio, period.
Question 5: Can the Rockets clean up their end of game sloppiness?
The Rockets were able to get away with sloppy play at the end of games four and five in the first round series against an inferior Oklahoma City team, but that won’t fly against a good San Antonio team. I’m sure Mike D’Antoni addressed the issue during the layoff and for the sake of the Rockets advancing to the Western Conference Finals hopefully the problem has been solved.
You can follow Landry Locker on Twitter @landrylocker.