SAN FRANCISCO -- Rockets forward Trevor Ariza remembers the bump a little differently.
“I didn’t bump into him,” Ariza said Tuesday morning. “I was running and he just turned into me. That was it.”
On Jan. 21, during the Golden State Warriors' 126-113 win over the Houston Rockets, Ariza ran upcourt after a change of possession and nudged Warriors point guard Stephen Curry. Curry took exception and charged Ariza but was restrained by teammate Draymond Green. Ariza was given a technical and, later, a $2,500 fine.
At the time, Curry told reporters he thought it was a “cheap shot,” and later said, “If that’s how they want to try to get back in the game, it didn’t work. We answered that physicality by just playing our brand of basketball.”
The Warriors and Rockets played a chippy game that saw five technical fouls called, including one on Curry.
After the game, James Harden, the Rockets' leading scorer, told the Associated Press, “They bullied us tonight. They smacked us four times.”
Several Warriors players were upset at Harden for a comment he made before the previous regular-season meeting. In a pregame team huddle, Harden told his team that the Warriors “ain’t even that good.” It was supposed to be a private moment, but unbeknownst to Rockets players, a cameraman was filming them in the tunnel.
All of this perceived bad blood seems to be gone now as the two best teams in the West meet in the conference finals.
“That was during the season, a long time ago,” Ariza said after the Rockets' shootaround on Tuesday. “Our goals are totally different; we’re in a different place [and] we’re trying to beat them. We’re not trying to be friends with them or anything, we’re trying to come in here and get some wins.”
It’s been three months since these teams last faced off, but a physical series is still expected.
“It’s the postseason, so I don’t think at this point none of the teams are going to be playing passive,” Rockets forward Josh Smith said. “It’s time to lace the shoes up, tighten your shorts up a little higher, and get after it a little bit. I expect the players dictating these games. As deep as the postseason is right now, I look forward to a very competitive series.”