Last Thoughts on the 2015–16 NBA Season

Posted in Golden (State) Years on June 23rd, 2016 by bill
It’s long past time to move on to other topics, but a few words first. After a few days I’m pretty much at peace with what happened. Seeing the real and heartfelt joy that it brought to the people of Cleveland — who I actually have nothing against — helped. It feels like we of the Dub Nation may have started to get a bit greedy, expecting our team to win everything all the time; a little lesson in humility is not a bad thing for anybody. I’ve also started to look at this in a bit of a larger perspective...like, wouldn’t it be great if the Warriors and Cavs played in the Finals seven straight years, like a playoff series stretched out over most of a decade? That would make the series tied at one, with the Cavs having stolen home-court advantage...just like they did last season, and we know how that turned out. Can LeBron play five more years? Sure, he’s only 31; by 36 he will have a shitload of miles on the odometer but who knows what players Cleveland may have picked up by then? In five years Steph Curry will be 33, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green 31. There is a lot of great basketball in our future, I think. I trust the Warriors’ management to do what’s necessary to tweak the team for next year; that may or may not involve a player whose name rhymes with “Bevin Zurant.” The futures of players like Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, and Mo Buckets Speights remain up in the air. I’d say it’s unlikely that the Warriors pick up anything useful with the 30th pick in the draft, except that Draymond Green was picked 35th. So you never know. The draft starts in a few minutes, and that seems like as good a place as any to leave off for now.

Round 4, Game 7: Cavaliers 93, Warriors 89

Posted in Golden (State) Years on June 20th, 2016 by bill
So that happened. Last night I found myself watching Game 7 of the NBA Finals in a room full of family and friends who had gathered for a wedding. My wedding, to be precise, which had been the day before. It went really great. This considerably softens the blow of having to report that in an exciting, nail-biting, back-and-forth contest the Warriors failed to prevail against the Cleveland Cavaliers and will not be repeating as NBA Champions. This is a painful truth, but it has to be a learning and growing experience. I mean, it has to. So what have we learned? 1. Stephen Curry is a human being. Over the course of the last couple years many of us have drifted into believing that Steph is something like the Second Coming. And not without reason. But this series proved that he, too, can struggle. He can’t make every single shot he takes, and he can be affected by tenacious and disciplined defense. 2. LeBron James is very good at basketball. In the Finals LBJ led both teams in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. Which is, of course, ridiculous. After going down 3–1 and facing all sorts of criticism for his supposed failings in the clutch, he squared his shoulders and more or less willed his team to a title. I still don’t really like him. But you have to admire the performance. 3. Kyrie Irving too. Kyrie came of age this year, showing off his full set of prodigious offensive skills. He’s still not much of a defender, but you can’t have everything. Crucially, Kyrie carried just enough of the load to keep LeBron from getting worn down over the course of the Finals like he did last year. 4. Cleveland is not cursed. The part of me that’s able to be objective about all this kind of likes the fact that Cleveland got a championship. It’s been a long time for them and as a long-suffering-until-recently Warriors fan, I know what that’s like. Better to lose to a Cleveland team than to someone like the Lakers or, God forbid, the Clippers. 5. You can’t always get what you want. (But if you try sometimes, etc. etc.) Of course I would have loved to see the W’s win it all. But it was a great season, it went the maximum, there were lots of good times had. My lovely wife was by my side for many of the games, and hopefully we’ll be back at it next year.

Round 4, Game 6: Cavaliers 115, Warriors 101

Posted in Golden (State) Years on June 17th, 2016 by bill
Good Lord, what a nightmare of a game. The Warriors went down big early — 20 points in the 1st quarter, to be precise — and despite repeatedly clawing their way back into it, could never quite get there. Things just kept going wrong — Andre Iguodala hurt his back, Steph Curry tweaked his hand and got into foul trouble, and in the end it was just one of those days. The image that will linger is Curry fouling out of the game — !!!!! — with 4:22 left in the game, then for good measure getting ejected after winging his mouthpiece toward the crowd. After the game, Steph’s wife Ayesha went on record saying the game had been fixed. It was an ugly scene all around. I was watching in a room full of loved ones and alcohol, which lessened the sting somewhat. But on the whole it was not one of your better days to be a Warriors fan. With any luck Sunday —which is when Game 7 will be played in Oakland — will be better. Please, please let it be better.

Round 4, Game 5: Cavaliers 112, Warriors 97

Posted in Golden (State) Years on June 14th, 2016 by bill
Since this has turned out to be a long and exhausting playoff season, in the interest of brevity, I've written a haiku about last night’s game: Kyrie and LeBron: Credit where credit is due. Draymond's back Thursday.

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

Posted in Golden (State) Years on June 12th, 2016 by bill
Today the NBA announced that Draymond Green had retroactively been assessed a technical foul for his dustup with LeBron James in Friday’s Game 4 of the NBA Finals. In case you missed it, it looked something like this: How bad a decision is this? So bad I find myself agreeing with Stephen A. Smith. One explanation is that it’s a makeup call for Draymond’s non-suspension in the Steven Adams incident in the Conference Finals. He probably should have been suspended for that one — and it would have made no difference, as Draymond played horribly in the next game and the Warriors lost badly. They could only have been better off without him. Another explanation is that the Association is shamelessly going out of its way to increase the likelihood of the series continuing, with the increase in revenue that would entail. I generally am very skeptical of conspiracy theories in sports; my belief is that a league like the NBA makes so much money that there’s no need to risk losing credibility to eke out a few more dollars. On the other hand, business is business, and money talks. In any case, it makes for an intriguing storyline. After being relatively respectful adversaries for three games — helping each other up off the floor and so on — the Warriors and Cavs started to get really tired of each other in Game 4. LeBron got into it with both Green and Steph Curry, and after the game Klay Thompson was heard to say — somewhat deadpan — “I guess his feelings got hurt.” There’s no doubt in my mind that the Warriors can win a game on their home court without Draymond Green. He will be missed, but there are some other good players on the team. I’m thinking especially of Andre Iguodala, who will be called upon to play big minutes. This is just the kind of situation that causes a team to rally together, and all they need to do is play 48 more minutes of good basketball, then they can have four months to rest. My immediate question was, if the W’s do manage to pull it off, does Draymond get to celebrate with them? “Per a league source,” says Bleacher Report, “Draymond's suspension will bar him from being at Oracle during G5 but he will be allowed in postgame should GSW win.” So that’s good news. I sort of wish the game was tonight; 28 more hours is a long time to wait to see what happens, but it should be fun.

Round 4, Game 4: Warriors 108, Cavaliers 97

Posted in Golden (State) Years on June 11th, 2016 by bill
[caption id="attachment_7123" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Sorry, Bron-Bron. Not this year."][/caption] It’s not time to pop the champagne quite yet. But we’re about as close as you can get after the Warriors took Game 4 from the Cavaliers on their home court. And “took” is the right word; after looking lost and lackadaisical in Game 3, the W’s played with a sense of urgency that was heartening to behold. Even so they were down 5 points at the end of the first half, 6 at the beginning of the second after Kyrie Irving converted the free throw for a technical that had been called on Luke Walton. At the end of the 1st Luke had protested, quite correctly, over an an atrocious non-call on Andre Iguodala’s buzzer-beating heave. J.R. Smith had slapped Iguodala all over the arms on the shot, and even raised his hand to claim the foul, but no call was made. This was part of a pattern of mystifying officiating throughout the game, and while I think it pretty much evened out in the end, it was painful to experience. Fortunately, after Irving hit a jump shot for an 8-point lead, the Warriors decided it was time to bear down. Back-to-back 25-footers by Steph Curry and Klay Thompson made it a 2-point game, and you could sense the tide turning. The game was tied at 69 with 4:37 left after an Andre Iguodala three. A few words here about Andre: I don’t know what it is about that guy, but he just has a gift for playing his best on the biggest stage. He’s been absolutely key in the Finals this year, just like last year, playing phenomenal defense, chipping in much-needed points, grabbing loose balls and rebounds, and doing all the little things to help the team win. He was +15 last night, highest on the team; I don’t know if he’ll win Finals MVP again, but he probably deserves it. From that point the teams went back and forth for a good long time; they were never separated by more than 4 points until Steph Curry hit a layup to give the Warriors a 6-point lead with 6:50 left in the 4th quarter. At that point the blood was in the water. An Iguodala offensive rebound leading to a Harrison Barnes 3 raised the lead to 9, and the Cavs never really threatened again. LeBron James, sensing his dream of bringing a championship to Cleveland slipping away yet again, started to lose his cool. He threw Draymond Green to the ground and stepped over him, leading to a chest-to-chest exchange of views between the two #23s. Later, LeBron held and bumped Steph Curry at least three separate times on an inbounds play — with no call, I might add — prompting the normally mild-mannered Chef to vocalize his displeasure to both LBJ and the ref. In the end, it mattered not. The Cavs couldn’t close the gap, and when they got desperate and started fouling, Steph and Klay went 10-for-10 from the free throw line in the last minute. The Dubs lead the series 3–1 with Game 5 scheduled for Monday in Oaktown. It would be nice to see them clinch the title at home. Nothing is guaranteed — the Cavs, with their backs against the wall, will fight like mad — but the champagne is on ice, just in case.

Round 4, Game 3: Cavaliers 120, Warriors 90

Posted in Golden (State) Years on June 9th, 2016 by bill
[caption id="attachment_7115" align="alignnone" width="440" caption="Klay Thompson grabs some floor time after suffering a thigh contusion. It was that kind of night."][/caption] What a difference three days make. Apparently the Cleveland Cavaliers took somewhat personally all the criticism, disparagement, and outright mockery they endured in the 72 hours between Games 2 and 3 of the NBA Finals. Last night they looked like a whole different team, scoring the first nine points of the game and building a 30–10 lead with 1:22 left in the first quarter. For the math-challenged, that’s a 20-point lead. In the first quarter. The Warriors battled back and managed to get within 8 at the half, but in the third quarter the beatdown resumed. The final score ended up at 120–90, by which time we had long since abandoned our table at the Pearl Lounge in Eureka. That amounts to a 63-point swing between Games 2 and 3. Were those really the same two teams out there? The Cavaliers looked more confident, more aggressive, and somehow larger than they had in the previous game. Their arms were longer, their rotations faster. It was their defense that won the game for them; they again bottled up Steph Curry, limiting him to 19 points on 6-for-13 shooting, and this time the Warriors’ bench did not come to the rescue. The Cavs’ offense was not bad either; they shot 52% from the field and 48% on threes. So as a Warriors fan, what can I say? My team got their butts whipped. They seemed stunned by what the Cavs threw at them, and instead of the unbeatable superteam of Games 1 and 2, looked like regular human beings who sometimes get flustered and make mistakes. And instead of a brutal mismatch leading to the Warriors’ coronation as two-time champs, we have a series now. The W’s are still in better shape than they were last year, when they were down 2–1 at this point. But last night's debacle opens some questions that will need answering. Game 4 is tomorrow, and with any luck it will be the first actual competitive game of the Finals. Coach Kerr and his minions will earn their paychecks between now and then. I hope.

Round 4, Game 2: Warriors 110, Cavaliers 77

Posted in Golden (State) Years on June 6th, 2016 by bill
[caption id="attachment_7106" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Go ahead and shout."][/caption] It’s tempting to gloat at a time like this, when My Golden State Warriors just beat the stuffing out of the Eastern Conference Champs in Game 2 of the Finals. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson once again underperformed (this time managing 18 and 17, respectively), and it did not matter in the least. After taking a while to get going, the Warriors took a 15-point lead in the 2nd quarter, which the Cavs cut to 8 at halftime. But in the 3rd quarter the W’s came out blazing; by the time it was over they were up 20, and things only got uglier from there. The leading scorer for either team was Draymond Green with 28, and this is really not good news for Cleveland, who again could not take advantage of a subpar shooting night by the Splash Brothers. The Cavs turned the ball over, took bad shots, and had numerous defensive lapses that led to easy shots for the Dubs. By the middle of the 4th it was a 30-point game and I was waiting for the ref to stop things before someone got hurt. Still and all, it’s just a 2–0 lead at this point. Now the series goes back to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4 and you have to hope, just for the sake of sheer human decency, that the Cavs muster some pride and show a little backbone. They should have no shortage of bulletin-board material with all the nasty stuff that was said about them after the game, and will continue to be said over the next couple days. Gloating would be premature, but one thing is just as true now as it was in November: The Warriors are the champs until someone takes it away from them.

Round 4, Game 1: Warriors 104, Cavaliers 89

Posted in Golden (State) Years on June 3rd, 2016 by bill
[caption id="attachment_7097" align="alignnone" width="500"] I got this one.[/caption] “It was weird, but it was fun.” – Stephen Curry The Warriors’ slogan has been “Strength in Numbers” for a couple years now, and while that’s approaching the status of a cliche, there’s a lot of truth in it. Team beats individual every time. This effect was on full display in Game 1 of the Finals, when the Splash Brothers struggled all night, ending up 8-for-27 from the field for a combined 20 points. That was strange enough, but what was even stranger was that it did not matter at all. The rest of the team took up the slack and didn’t just eke out a win; they outplayed the Cavaliers in convincing fashion. The W’s leading scorer was Shaun Livingston (20 pts, 8/10 FG, 0 turnovers), who had his midrange jumper in sizzling form. Leandro Barbosa, little used recently, tallied 11 in 11 minutes, repeatedly tormenting the tenacious but slow afoot Matthew Dellavedova. Draymond Green scored 16 and presumptive Finals MVP Andre Iguodala 12, and the whole team pitched in to play stellar defense. Even coach Steve Kerr got into the act, logging his third broken clipboard of the season to help the guys stay motivated in the second half. This is only one game, obviously; things can change a lot over the course of a seven-game series. But it’s not a good sign for Cleveland that the Warriors’ best players had off nights and they still won easily. At one point late in the game ABC flashed a stat showing the W’s top 6 scorers of the night, and there was no one named Curry or Thompson among them. (In the end, Steph hit a late three to pass Andrew Bogut for the 6 spot.) We sat here somewhat flabbergasted on the living room couch, dodging the persistent summer sun that sometimes makes it hard to see what’s happening onscreen. We’ll all suit up again for Game 2 on Sunday. Will the Splash Bros break the 20-point barrier this time? Um, take the over.

NBA Finals Predictions 2016

Posted in Golden (State) Years on June 2nd, 2016 by bill
[caption id="attachment_7088" align="alignnone" width="390" caption="Why can't we just get along?"][/caption] Game 1 of the NBA Finals will tip off in a couple hours, and not a moment too soon. In the absence of actual news, the internet spits out an endless stream of overanalysis, speculation, and outright blather. It was news today that Steph Curry uses Uber to get around town, apparently disappointing those hoping to see him float by on a magic carpet. Which frankly, at this point, would not surprise me that much. In the meantime, here are a few predictions about the series, none of them of any significance whatsoever.
  • Kevin Love will wear a cup.
  • The two teams will obliterate the previous Finals record for threes attempted and made. Both of them love to launch up long-distance shots, with the Cavs owning the current record for the most made in a game at 25. Klay Thompson just set the individual record with 11, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that record doesn’t survive the series. It wouldn’t surprise me if Steph hit 12 in a game, then Klay hit 13. Being a fan of this team has inflicted serious damage on my ability to be surprised.
  • Draymond Green will get a technical foul in Game 1, bringing him right to the brink of a suspension. In subsequent games, anytime he starts to approach a referee, one of his teammates will kick him in the crotch. For the good of the team.
  • LeBron will be unhappy with a call and stare down the ref with that “Don’t you know who I am?” look.
  • If the Warriors lose, a gloating Charles Barkley will explain how it was inevitable. If they win, he will find some reason to undermine the legitimacy of their accomplishment. Because that’s how the Chuckles do.
And that’s probably enough for now...my battery is low and there are chores to do before gametime. How crazy is it that the W’s are in the Finals for the second straight year? It used to be a pipe dream that they would ever play games in June, and here we are. Indeed do many things come to pass.