The stage is set for the West's top two seeds to face off in the conference finals, as the top-seeded Rockets will host the No. 2 Warriors in Game 1 on Monday night.
Houston (67-15) and Golden State (58-24) were expected to advance this far, and the time has finally come for the two teams to battle for Western Conference supremacy. Each team is 8-2 up to this point in the postseason and have lofty title aspirations.
The Rockets won their season series with Golden State 2-1, though the circumstances of each regular season matchup contrast greatly with those of the conference finals.
How much stock can be placed in to regular season results? Let's take a look back at how each of the meetings unfolded...
Oct. 17, 2017 - Rockets 122, Warriors 121
The BEST of @HoustonRockets/@Warriors down the stretch! #KiaTipOff17 pic.twitter.com/F7SPduIdne- NBA (@NBA) October 18, 2017
Defining stat: Turnovers - Golden State 17 (21 points), Houston 13 (11 points)
Rockets top performer: James Harden - 27 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds
Warriors top performer: Draymond Green - 9 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds (in three quarters)
The Rockets lone visit to Oracle Arena during the 2017-18 regular season came on opening night as the defending champions received their rings during a pregame ceremony. Twenty first-half points from free agent acquisition Nick Young propelled the Warriors to a 71-62 lead at the half.
Golden State used a 30-point third quarter to build a 13-point lead heading into the final frame, but the Warriors lost All-Star Draymond Green to a knee injury in the process. Green missed the entire fourth quarter as the Rockets staged an impressive comeback.
Reserves Eric Gordon and Luc Mbah a Moute helped pace the Rockets offense, as Houston was forced to play without nine-time All-Star Chris Paul (knee) in the final minutes.
The game came down to its final moments, as Kevin Durant's potential buzzer-beater was waved off because he did not release the shot in time. Harden led all scorers with 27 points and a trio of Houston reserves - Gordon (24), PJ Tucker (20) and Mbah a Moute (14) - combined to score 58 points.
Young led the Warriors with 23 points while Curry (22), Durant (20) and Thompson (16) equaled the Rockets' bench output of 58 points. Green's absence in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference.
Houston used the season opener to make a rather large statement. The two Western Conference powers would not meet again for 11 weeks.
Jan. 4, 2018 - Warriors 124, Rockets 114
Stephen Curry & Klay Thompson combine for 57 to lead the @Warriors in Houston! #DubNation pic.twitter.com/Go73M4bJaR- NBA (@NBA) January 5, 2018
Defining stat: Assists - Warriors 35, Rockets 20
Warriors top performer: Stephen Curry - 29 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists
Rockets top performer: Chris Paul - 28 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds
The second meeting of the season lacked the luster of the opening night showdown. Paul and Green were back healthy, but Durant and Harden both missed the game with leg injuries.
Starting in place of Harden, Gordon led all scorers with 30 points on 12-of-24 shooting. Houston also benefited from Paul's monster stat line as well as an unexpected outburst from midseason acquisition Gerald Green. The Rockets shooting guard scored 29 points while making a career-high eight 3-pointers on 15 attempts.
Andre Iguodala was tabbed to start in place of the injured Durant, impacting the game with his playmaking. The 2015 Finals MVP scored 10 points and dished out eight assists in over 30 minutes of action. Curry (29) and Thompson (28) combined to score 57 points while hitting 10 of their 19 3-point attempts.
The deep ball was a major factor: Houston connected on 17 of its 50 attempts from beyond the arc while the Warriors knocked down 13 of their 30 attempts. Golden State also assisted on 72.9 percent of its 48 made field goals.
Despite both teams missing MVP candidates, the win was an adequate response to the Rockets' opening night victory.
Jan. 20, 2018 - Rockets 116, Warriors 108
The @HoustonRockets and @Warriors battle through crunch time! pic.twitter.com/fHtWIsXfER- NBA (@NBA) January 21, 2018
Defining stat: Rebounds - Rockets 46 (12 offensive), Warriors 33 (4 offensive)
Rockets top performer: Chris Paul - 33 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists
Warriors top performer: Draymond Green - 21 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists
The third and final regular season matchup between the West's top two teams was as close to full strength as fans would get before the playoffs. Durant, Green, Harden and Paul were all healthy and active, but the Rockets were without forwards Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green due to league suspensions.
Houston set the tone early, connecting on seven of its first 11 3-point attempts and leading 40-28 at the end of the opening quarter. The Rockets led by as many as 17, but Golden State chipped away throughout the game and trailed 92-91 heading into the fourth quarter.
Led by Harden and Paul, Houston outscored the Warriors 24-17 in the final frame to win 116-108. The Rockets shot 50 percent from the field in the fourth, while Golden State shot 36.8 percent and committed six turnovers in the quarter.
For the game, Paul led all scorers with 33 points, and Harden contributed 22 points and eight assists. Houston center Clint Capela scored 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting, as the Rockets outscored Golden State 48-34 in the paint.
Durant led the Warriors' scoring efforts with 26 points, but Thompson was held to just eight points on 3-of-11 shooting while Stephen Curry scored 19 points in a poor 6-of-20 showing.
This represented a major turning point for both teams - after the Jan. 20 meeting, Houston finished its season 33-5, while the Warriors finished 21-14.
The Rockets used their late-season surge for this moment: Golden State will begin a postseason series on the road for the first time since 2014, when it lost to Paul and the Clippers in the first round. Houston will look to use its home-court advantage to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time in 23 years.
The Western Conference finals begin Monday, May 14 at 9 p.m. ET (TSN 1/4/5).