OAKLAND, Calif. -- All season long, the Rockets have been vocal about their desire to take down the Golden State Warriors, with Houston general manager Daryl Morey even admitting to being obsessed with beating them.
Now that these two powers are finally set to meet in the Western Conference finals, Draymond Green says, "It's time to play."
"They have made it known that their team is built to beat us," Green said Tuesday after the Warriors eliminated the New Orleans Pelicans in five games. "Kind of their, like you said, obsession or whatever you want to call it -- it is what it is. Like I've said before, all that stuff is cool. Obviously, you want to build your team to beat the defending champs because that's usually how you have to go to win a championship. So, all understandable.
"That stuff has been said for about a year now. It's time to play."
The first two games of the series will be in Houston. Warriors coach Steve Kerr stressed that it would take a collective effort to knock off James Harden, Chris Paul and the No. 1-seeded Rockets.
"We're going to need some contributions from our bench," Kerr said. "It's a series where you've got a lot of shooting out there for Houston, a lot of one-on-one play. We have to stay in front of them. Guys like Nick Young,Jordan [Bell], they all have to stay ready, because we can use any of them in this matchup."
During the 2017 offseason, the Rockets made a run at Warriors free-agent forward Andre Iguodala and almost succeeded in luring him away from the San Francisco Bay Area. They desperately wanted to steal a key cog of the Warriors' core.
Houston filled its roster with defensive-minded players who can guard multiple positions to combat the versatility of Golden State's nucleus. It all seemed to align with Morey's admission in December that the question "How do we beat the Warriors?" is "the only thing" the Rockets think about.
In January, the Warriors lost their second of three games this season to the Rockets, and Houston center Clint Capela told ESPN, "We are better than them."
This is the matchup the Rockets have longed for.
"Hey, you gotta play the game now," Green said. "That's all fine and dandy in January, but now they got us, and we got them. You got to go out there and play, and we'll see who's better."
The Rockets might have been fixated on the Warriors, but according to Green, the Warriors don't share that obsession.
"Man, 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's in the way of that. If you're in the way of that, then you happen to be in the way. But we're not about to run around like, 'Yeah, we want to play them in the conference finals.' For what? It doesn't matter to us who we play. However, we got them. All right, now let's get it. We get to it now.
"We've got a goal. Whoever is in the way of that goal, then we got to see you. You got to see us. All right now, they're in the way. Perfect. But we're not running around talking about, 'Man, we want them bad.' Nah, we want a championship bad. Another one."
Kevin Durantechoed Green's sentiment.
"No disrespect, but we were just focused on us during the season and how we can get better every day," Durant said. "If we played them that night, that's when we focused on them. But we didn't try to look past whoever we played that night to think about Houston.
"That's no disrespect to them. We were just locked on what we wanted to do."
Just as it was against the Pelicans, it will be difficult for the Warriors to play a traditional center against Houston. Capela is as agile and athletic as they come, and the Rockets tend to throw out numerous small-ball lineups. Kerr receives a lot of credit for moving Green to the 5 spot -- which activates the Warriors' so-called "death lineup" -- but he credits Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni for initiating the concept.
"I blame Mike D'Antoni for making all of the big centers extinct in the NBA," Kerr said. "Zaza Pachulia should go down and complain to Mike and say, 'You ruined my career, Mike.' But honestly, like when Mike decided to go small in Phoenix, whatever that was, 2004, 2005, and make [Amare] Stoudemire his center, it started this chain reaction, and it's one of the reasons the game is just small and fast and open, and the big guys have to be very specialized, and they have to be versatile. They have to be athletic.
"It's tricky, you know. Zaza has been our starting center for two years, and in these playoffs, the game has changed so dramatically, and we'll see that obviously with Houston in a big way, because Mike is a guy who kind of started it all."
This matchup has the potential to be epic. It contains vocal star players who love to race up and down the floor and shoot 3s. Golden State realizes this will be a daunting task.
"We got our work cut out for us," Durant said. "It's not going to be easy. We know they want to beat us, and we want to beat them. That's just basketball."