A few more thoughts on Game 5

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 26th, 2018 by bill
The other day I was too stunned and hung over to form any coherent thoughts about the disaster that was Game 5. And I kind of still don’t want to talk about it. The Warriors played poorly and deserved to lose...what else is there to say? But even in the midst of defeat they caught a huge break when Chris Paul strained his hamstring in the last minute of the game. He will sit out tonight’s game in Oakland, and while I would have preferred that the W’s beat the Rockets at full strength, at the moment any help is welcome. Andre Iguodala will miss his third game in a row, and apparently he is a keyer cog in the machine than we knew, because the Dubs have not looked like the same team without him. But, blah blah blah...honestly I’m tired of hearing about it and thinking about it. Let’s play the damn game already and see what happens. 15 minutes to go.

Song of the Week, 5/26/2018

Posted in Song of the week on May 26th, 2018 by bill
This week’s song is actually two — the first two songs on Bad Company’s 1979 album Desolation Angels. These are guilty pleasures to be sure, weighted down with a heavy load of the hoariest rock’n’roll cliches. But I feel happy every time I hear them, so fuck that noise. Rock’n’roll!

Western Conference Finals, Game 5: Rockets 98, Warriors 94

Posted in Whatever Else on May 25th, 2018 by bill
Game 5.image Wait, what?

Western Conference Finals, Game 4: Rockets 95, Warriors 92

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 23rd, 2018 by bill
i It is my unpleasant and self-appointed duty to fill this space with words about last night’s basketball game, which had a brilliant start — a 12–0 Warriors run, after which I was sending giddy texts to everyone in my address book — and then, as the Old Man says, “little by little it started going to shit.” The wife and I sat on our barstools at the recently reopened Tomo Sushi in Arcata, sadly eating delicious food as what seemed like a sure thing went slowly sideways. I wish there was some excuse, some quirk, some extenuating circumstance that I could cite. And yes, the W’s were missing key cog Andre Iguodala, who sat out with a leg contusion. But that shouldn’t have mattered; the Warriors simply let a game that they had in their grasp slip away. The Rockets just appeared to want it more, and that does matter, even at this rarefied level of competition. On the other hand, isn’t this what I keep asking for? Some challenge, some competition, some adversity for my team to overcome on their way to glory? So here you go, bright boy — on Thursday the Dubs will play a road game that they really need to win, no kidding around. Happy now?  

He’s Your Back Door Man

Posted in Whatever Else on May 22nd, 2018 by bill
So this morning I was reading a Serious News story on the New York Times about the uneasy alliance between Israel’s Netanyahu government and evangelical Christians, who don’t really like each other but find it convenient to work together in pursuit of their respective goals. But shallow person that I am, it was the following paragraph that really caught my attention:
“You have this evangelical who ends his prayer knowing full well that it’s inappropriate, that the Jews there are going to be upset that he did that, and not able to answer ‘amen’ to his prayer,” said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Such an explicitly Christian prayer, he warned, revived old fears of many Jews that evangelical support for Israel is “a way to sweeten us up and get us soft to get Jesus through the back door.”

Western Conference Finals, Game 3: Warriors 126, Rockets 85

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 21st, 2018 by bill
the-return-of-the-warriors-we-know-steph-and-defense After two days of camping it was a little disorienting to find myself in a loud, colorful sports bar in Sacramento yesterday, waiting for Game 3 to start. Confusingly too, despite the presence of about 23 big screens, it took a while for us to get TNT on one of them; and when we did, Shaquille O’Neal was talking about gun control, then Charles Barkley said some things about mental health. The general feeling was of a slightly, though not disagreeably, skewed parallel universe. When the game finally got underway the Warriors had the same starting lineup they’ve been using (what they now call the “Hamptons 5”: Curry, Thompson, Durant, Iguodala, Green), but a new defensive scheme designed to keep Steph from being picked on defensively. It did not go well at first. With Curry scrambling to get back to his own man rather than switch, the Rockets found the open man and got a few easy baskets. In the first minutes of the game the Rockets built what seemed like a substantial lead. A look back at the play-by-play shows that in fact their biggest lead was 4, at 8–4. At that point the W’s took a timeout, immediately after which Steph Curry hit his first 3 of the game. Over the annoyingly long interval between Games 2 and 3 there had been a lot of loose talk — even from yours truly — about “what’s wrong with Steph.” The truth was that his floor game had been solid, but his long-range shooting had not been what we expect it to be. And after making that one triple, he continued to struggle throughout the first half, even as the W’s slowly built a solid 11-point lead. There was something about this game that was very familiar, reminding me of games in the past when Steph had had one of his big third quarters. And, not to blow my own horn or anything, I do have in my possession a text message timestamped 6:05 PM — about 10 minutes before the beginning of the second half — predicting an 18-point 3rd for Mr. Curry. Which is exactly what happened. I always enjoy watching the Warriors win. But it’s never more fun than it is when Steph goes on one of these runs, fueling the crowd, fueling his teammates, the momentum building and building. By the time the 3rd quarter was over, the Dubs were up 21 and Steph had been heard to shout “This is my fucking house!” Which is something you hear on a basketball court every day, but don’t expect from mild-mannered Steph, who was subsequently rebuked for the outburst by his mom.
She already sent me two home videos, showing me the clip and playing it back. She was telling me how I need to wash my mouth out, saying to wash it out with soap. It’s a message I’ve heard before.
Which is adorable, of course — but come on, Sonya. Your boy’s earned the right to blow off a little steam, after sticking with the game plan and remaining patient despite the negativity of the nattering nabobs. Or as Rick James would put it, But let’s not get too giddy just yet. The Warriors now lead the series 2–1 and will need a repeat performance tomorrow to get themselves where they want to be, heading back to Houston with a 3–1 lead. Anything beyond that is the distant future, and not yet even worth contemplating.

Western Conference Finals, Game 2: Rockets 127, Warriors 105

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 17th, 2018 by bill
[caption id="attachment_7845" align="alignnone" width="500"]Yeah, it's like that sometimes. Yeah, it's like that sometimes.[/caption] Throughout this year’s playoffs, the Warriors have made a habit of gifting every team with one victory at home, just to reward the local fans for all they’ve done. This meant writing off Game 4 in San Antonio and Game 3 in New Orleans; but in the case of the Houston Rockets, who had home-court advantage, it was necessary to surrender Game 2 — otherwise there would be no more games in Houston. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself today, the morning after my beloved basketball team phoned in a sadly lackluster performance. The numbers tell the story; even Kevin Durant, who scored 38 points, was –28 for the night. Klay Thompson was largely absent, and something is definitely wrong with Steph Curry, who is 2-for-13 on threes over the last two games (though his overall field-goal percentage, assist, and rebound numbers are pretty good). But all that will be forgotten if the Good Warriors show up at Oracle Arena on Sunday, when Game 3 will tip off shortly after 5 P.M. Unfortunately that is three days from now, giving the Dub Nation 70-something hours to stew in its juices. Perhaps we will grow as people during that time. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Western Conference Finals, Game 1: Warriors 119, Rockets 106

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 15th, 2018 by bill
[caption id="attachment_7839" align="alignnone" width="500"]James Harden's idea of defense is trying to blow Kevin Durant over. James Harden's idea of defense is trying to blow Kevin Durant over.[/caption] I was a little antsy as I sat on my couch last night with a gray cat in my lap, waiting for Game 1 to tip off already after four long days of no basketball. My Warriors were set to face the Houston Rockets, owner of the league’s best record at 65–17, and one and a half–point favorites according to the oddsmakers. The first couple minutes did not go well. A defensive lapse left James Harden all alone for a three, which he buried. Big Clint Capela rejected Kevin Durant’s first shot attempt with authority, then slammed home an alley-cop dunk on the other end. Draymond Green got a technical 1:07 into the game for shoving Harden under the basket, and was lucky he did not get booted summarily from the game. Andre Iguodala picked up two quick fouls and headed to the bench. But despite all that the Warriors never trailed by more than 9, and had closed it to one at the end of the 1st quarter. The game was tied at 56 at halftime.  And the Warriors, as we all know, are a third-quarter team. Sometimes they strike like a cobra, going on a big run that quickly puts an end to things. This time they were more like a boa constrictor, slowly squeezing the life out of the Rockets. Kevin Durant was the man, seemingly scoring at will, and Klay Thompson chipped in with a basket every time he got even a glimmer of daylight. Steph Curry struggled a bit, missing most of his shots and being repeatedly exploited on defense by the bigger Harden. But if there’s one play that exemplifies the W’s performance in this game, it was Steph poking away Harden’s dribble, chasing down the loose ball, and feeding Iguodala for a dunk. You could feel the air go out of the building a little (remember, this game was in Houston), and the game was never really in doubt after that. So the $64 million question is, did the Rockets have an off night and/or first-game jitters, or is this just how it’s gonna be? All the commentators seemed eager to declare the series over, which is of course premature. I for one hold out some hope that the Rockets will pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and give my team a real challenge. It must be demoralizing, though. The Rockets worked hard all year with the specific goal of getting home-court advantage in this series. They got it, and then the Warriors came and snatched it away just like that. I almost feel bad for them. But not quite. The Rockets are led by two of my least favorite players in the NBA today, James Harden and Chris Paul. Both of these guys are incredibly talented, and both are adept at taking advantage of every loophole the game offers them, legal or otherwise. Throughout their careers they have repeatedly put up gaudy regular-season numbers, then come up small when it counted. So no pity party; if the Rockets want Game 2, they are going to have to take it. Come on, boys, let’s see what you got.

Here We Go Again

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 14th, 2018 by bill
I haven’t written a word about the NBA playoffs so far this year, for a couple of reasons. One is sheer laziness. Another is that when I went back and reread posts from previous seasons, some of them struck me as rather tedious. And if I think they’re tedious they must be, because I’m quite vain about my writing. But then sometimes it’s really less about the reading than the writing. Keeping the old instrument tuned and so forth. So let’s do this. Later today Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets will tip off. It’s been a weird year for Dub Nation; after last season’s 16–1 romp through the playoffs, a certain malaise seemed to settle over the team and its fans. It was hard for all of us to get up for each and every game like we used to; three straight seasons extending all the way into June had taken their toll. But we are all veterans now. We have some idea of how to measure out our energy, how to take the long view. Unlike two seasons ago, where the Warriors seemed to deplete themselves by chasing a record 73-win regular season, this year they emphasized rest down the stretch. (In some cases they had no choice, with a rash of injuries afflicting all the key players, especially Steph Curry.) As a result they ended up surrendering the #1 seed in the West to the upstart Houston Rockets, who played with tremendous swagger all season. And so, after dispatching the Spurs and the Pelicans in five games each, the Warriors will begin a playoff series on the road for the first time in four years. They have a lot of confidence in themselves, but so do the Rockets; and Las Vegas in its infinite wisdom has seen fit to make the W’s underdogs for the first time in recent memory. So the stage is set for an epic battle. Let the games begin.

Song of the Week, 5/13/2018

Posted in Song of the week on May 13th, 2018 by bill
This song by Air wins hands down the prize for best combination of electronics and banjo — not that there’s much competition. Four minutes and forty-two seconds of pure aural pleasure. But be sure to listen to it in stereo, and as loud as possible; on tinny computer speakers the whole point is lost.