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Before I picked a winner between the Warriors and Rockets, I called Jim Barnett and Garry St. Jean.

Barnett is the current Warriors television analyst, and a former NBA player. St. Jean is a television analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area, and a former NBA head coach and general manager. They’re two of the best of basketball analysts in the country.

I asked Barnett and St. Jean seven questions. Based on their answers and arguments, I’m picking the Rockets, even though both picked the Warriors to win.

Here are my questions, their answers and my reasons for picking Houston.

Question No. 1: What do the Warriors have going for them in this series?

Barnett: “The Warriors are defending NBA champions. They’ve got four All Stars. They’ve got three great scorers. They’ve owned the Rockets in the past. Not this year, but in the past. Until the Warriors lost down there on Jan. 20, they had won seven straight games in Houston.”

St. Jean: “The Warriors move the ball a lot. They move people. They are outstanding defensively. That’s their key. When they really defend well, and they don’t turn the ball over, they then get into the open floor and play the beautiful game.”

Grant’s interpretation: Barnett and St. Jean seem to say the Warriors’ biggest advantages are their championship pedigree, past successes in the NBA Finals and against the Rockets, and ball-movement style of play. The Warriors should have more confidence than the Rockets heading into the series.

Question No. 2: What do the Rockets have going for them?

Barnett: “They’ve got Chris Paul, who plays extremely well against the Warriors. They’ve got James Harden, who’s going to be the MVP. They’ve got Trevor Ariza, who can defend Kevin Durant probably as well as anybody in the league. Clint Capela is averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds this year. He has really improved. Eric Gordon, 18 points a game and can shoot 3s.”

St. Jean: “Their defense is a lot better than it was in the past. They have a style of play that’s unique on the offensive end. They hunt the mismatch via the pick and roll, and then they isolate, and they’re going to shoot the 3, or dribble drive to finish, lob, or pass to a corner for a 3.”

Grant’s interpretation: The Rockets don’t have a championship pedigree, but are the best team the Warriors have faced in the playoffs since Steve Kerr became head coach in 2014. The Rockets have a state-of-the-art NBA offense, an excellent coach — Mike D’Antoni — an excellent defense and a dominant trio of Harden, Paul and Capela. The Rockets are 50-5 this season these three play together.

Question No. 3: Who is the most important player for Warriors in this series?

Barnett: “Draymond Green, just because of his defense. He averaged a triple double in the series against New Orleans. If he didn’t play, I’m not sure they would have won that series. It would have been a lot more difficult.”

St. Jean: “Klay Thompson. He’s got the job to guard either one of Harden or Paul, and then he’s expected to put up the numbers he has been putting up.”

Grant’s interpretation: If Green and Thompson carry the load on defense, then Durant and Stephen Curry have to carry the load on offense. They must play their best for the Warriors to win the series. They are the most important Warriors to me.

Question No. 4: Who is the most important player for Rockets in this series?

Barnett: “Paul. He used to shoot midrange jump shots, and now he’s shooting 3s also. If they can contain Paul, they can take care of everybody else. Harden is going to do what he does, and he’s going to make a lot of mistakes. He’s going to have a couple of bad shooting nights where he goes 7 for 25. And the Warriors hopefully aren’t going to bail him out and let him get to the free throw line 14 times.”

St. Jean: “Harden. Can they keep him under 30 points?”

Grant’s interpretation: Harden is averaging 28.5 points and shooting 40.7 percent in the playoffs. St. Jean and Barnett seem to think Harden will continue to produce those numbers. He’s the constant. Paul will be the unknown. If the Warriors shut him down, they’ll win the series. If Paul plays well, the Rockets may win.

Question No. 5: How healthy is Stephen Curry?

Barnett: “He’s fine now. I had that knee injury. That thing is gone. But, is he in tip-top game shape? When you get fatigued, that affects your shot. That affects your defense.”

St. Jean: “My old eyes tell me he’s 90-percent healthy, in the mid-90s, maybe above.”

Grant’s interpretation: Curry’s knee may be healthy, but he clearly isn’t in tip-top game shape. He’s shooting only 37 percent from 5 to 19 feet away from the basket in the playoffs. He’s not getting open beneath the 3-point line like he did before he sprained his knee. Fatigue certainly has affected his shot. His defense, too.

Question No. 5: What is the key to the series for the Warriors?

Barnett: “Defending the 3-point line. The Rockets took 50 3-pointers against us one time this year in a game — 50!”

St. Jean: “Defending the 3-point line. Look back to last year when San Antonio beat them. The whole key was the 3-point line. You’re going to give up some layups in the pick and roll, but you’re going to take away the 3-point line.’”

Grant’s interpretation: The Warriors can defend the 3-point line. They’re allowing opponents to shoot just 32 percent from behind the arc in the playoffs – best in the league. If the series comes down to defending the 3, the Warriors will win. But, I don’t think it will come down to defending 3. I disagree with Barnett and St. Jean on this point.

The series will come down to defending Paul.

Question No. 6: What is your biggest concern for the Warriors in this series?

Barnett: “They haven’t shot the 3-point shot well at all. Everybody. Durant is shooting only 27.9 percent in the postseason from 3-point range. Even the last 10 games of the regular season, he has been in a real shooting slump.”

St. Jean: “Can they live with Capela getting some lobs and dunks and pick-and-roll layups versus giving up that 3-ball? That’s going to be the debate. In my mind, Capela is going to wind up with 16 to 20 points a night.”

Grant’s interpretation: Durant’s 3-point shot hasn’t returned since he came back from an incomplete rib cartilage fracture on March 29. Curry’s midrange shot hasn’t returned since he came back from a sprained knee. And Capela is going to have a big series, according to St. Jean. And Harden is going to be himself, according to both St. Jean and Barnett. The Rockets have a lot going for them.

Question No. 7: Who will win?

Barnett: “I think the Warriors are going to win in six. I don’t think it’s a seven-game series. That’s my firm belief. I think the Warriors know how to handle these guys.”

St. Jean: “If we’re going to win, I think it’s somewhere in the vicinity of six.”

Grant’s interpretation: Barnett and St. Jean are correct — if the Warriors win, they will win in six games.

But, they won’t win in six games. The Warriors aren’t shooting well enough to beat the Rockets, because Curry and Durant aren’t 100 percent healthy.

Harden and Paul are healthy. Plus, the Rockets have home-court advantage, and shoot 3s better than the Warriors.

The MVP of the series will be Paul, whom the Warriors couldn’t defend during the regular season. Paul averaged 30.5 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists, and shot 11 of 21 (52.4 percent) from behind the 3-point line Houston’s past two games against Golden State.

The Rockets will win this series in seven games. As great as the Warriors are, their top two players are slightly diminished.

Grant Cohn covers the 49ers for The Santa Rosa Press Democrat and Pressdemocrat.com. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com.

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