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 annoying 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 quarter for Mr. Curry. Which is exactly what happened. I always enjoy watching the Warriors win. But it’s never more fun as 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 nattering of the nabobs of negativism. 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.

Status Report, October 2017

Posted in Golden (State) Years on October 24th, 2017 by bill
This blog has been on life support lately, but I’m not quite ready to let it die. After 12 years and 1000+ posts, The Philter feels like an old friend, though I’ve been devoting most of my energy lately to The Beatles Plus 50. So let’s see...what can we talk about? I’ve thought often lately of writing about politics, as there’s so much to write about. And then I think...nah...healthier not to think about it any more than you already do. There’s the Warriors, I guess. That’s a pretty safe topic outside of Cleveland, and maybe Oklahoma City. The NBA season started a week ago, taking many of us a little by surprise, as the first game is not usually till Halloween. But this time the season was extended in an attempt to minimize the number of back-to-backs teams play, with the result that neither the W’s or I were quite ready for game 1. They had just gotten back from China while I was still in Europe celebrating an important birthday. That game was a close loss to the annoying Houston Rockets, and since then we’ve both been rounding slowly into shape. There was a win and a loss, with me only managing to catch part of each. Game 4 last night was a little shaky, the Warriors struggling early with the underwhelming Dallas Mavericks, me with the technology I use to watch the games. But in the second half we got it all figured out and there was some nice relaxing garbage time, including an off-the-backboard-self-pass dunk by rookie Jordan Bell. I expect it will be an enjoyable season. It is a little different to be a Warriors fan this year, even from the previous post-championship season. This time, the Dubs are coming off a 16–1 playoff run, and it is widely accepted that they are a mortal lock to repeat. Motivation is inevitably a problem under such circumstances, for players and fans alike. But if that’s all you have to worry about, things could be a lot worse. It takes a minute to get the machine cranked up again, right? One step at a time.

Round 4, Game 5: Warriors 129, Cavaliers 120

Posted in Golden (State) Years on June 13th, 2017 by bill
2017 NBA Finals - Game Five It’s a funny thing to be a Warriors fan here in 2017. I think that the overwhelming emotion in Dub Nation today is not so much jubilation as relief: We didn’t fuck this up. Given perhaps the most talented basketball team ever assembled, we did not fail to win the title everyone has assumed to be ours since Kevin Durant announced he would be joining the W’s last July 4. I wouldn’t say it was easy, exactly. The Cavaliers competed hard in each of the last three games of the Finals, although history will probably not remember it that way. On a personal level, I spent a very nervous day yesterday fighting off visions of last year’s el choko gigante, and let out a big exhale as the last minutes of Game 5 finally ticked away. But that’s all in the past now. Today it’s time to celebrate, and to relax, and to enjoy. There are good articles to read here, here, and here. Put your feet up, smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em, and savor this moment. The Warriors have won the championship, and all is right with the world.

Round 4, Game 4: Cavaliers 137, Warriors 116

Posted in Golden (State) Years on June 10th, 2017 by bill
[caption id="attachment_7674" align="alignnone" width="450"]This about sums it up. This about sums it up.[/caption] Q: So what happened last night? A: I’m not 100% sure, as many fine wines had been opened in anticipation of a championship celebration. All I remember is the Cavs making pretty much every shot they took, a bunch of questionable calls (going both ways) by the officials, and a general sense that everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Q: On a scale of 1–10, how worried are you now? A: On the one hand, it seems utterly inconceivable that the Warriors could lose four in a row to choke this away. On the other hand, maybe that word doesn’t mean what I think it means. I thought it was inconceivable that they could lose a 3–1 lead last year, and we know what happened. So...6 or 7, I guess? Q: What will happen in the next game? A: Allah willing, there will be a regression to the mean and the W’s will finish this thing off, and there will be much rejoicing. Sadly, Game 5 is not until Monday, which means spending the whole weekend on tenterhooks. That’s a funny word if you stare at it for a minute. Tenterhooks. Anyway, where was I? Game 5, right...well...I wanted there to be some drama in this series, and now we have some. Enough, I say! That’s enough drama! I’d love a good old-fashioned blowout on Monday, but I’ll take any kind of W we can get. Can I get an amen?

Round 4, Game 3: Warriors 118, Cavaliers 113

Posted in Golden (State) Years on June 8th, 2017 by bill
What a magnificent basketball game that was. All due credit to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and especially to LeBron and Kyrie, who showed up big time (38 points for Kyrie, 38/11/9 for LBJ). But the Warriors rope-a-doped them; hung in there until the very end of the game, then struck like a cobra and ended the game on an 11–0 run. God, it was beautiful. I don’t want to ruin it by talking about it too much. Here: Of course, there is still the small matter of winning one more game. Am I nervous, thinking back to last year’s epic collapse? Sure, maybe, a little. The odds are astronomical, but you never know...there could be an injury, a brawl, a freak indoor thunderstorm, or some other act of God. But as of this moment right now, how could things be better?

Round 4, Game 2: Warriors 132, Cavaliers 115

Posted in Golden (State) Years on June 5th, 2017 by bill
The thing that will probably not be remembered about last night’s game is that the Cavaliers played great. They scored 64 points in the first half – which was still only good for a three-point deficit. Then in the second half they ran into the buzzsaw that is the 2016–17 Golden State Warriors. Kevin Durant was everything we ever imagined he might be — blocking shots, dunking, draining 3s, and basically looking more than ever like a fiendishly designed basketball cyborg. Steph Curry had a “quiet” triple-double; ceding a lot of possessions to Durant, then stepping up to make the occasional statement three from the parking lot, or running LeBron in circles for a full possession before casually slicing by him for a layup: Klay Thompson hit a few shots, and the rest of the team ran like the well-oiled machine they are. It was beautiful to behold. And here we’re getting into dangerous territory. The Warriors played so well in the first two games of this series that it seems inconceivable that they will lose one. But then I think back to last year, when the W’s were up 3–1 in the Finals and I wrote a gloaty blog post that now haunts me. Game 3 is Wednesday in Cleveland, and I expect (even hope) that the Cavs will play like wild dogs and make things interesting. Time is running out for something dramatic to happen in these playoffs, but it’s not over till it’s over.

Round 4, Game 1: Warriors 113, Cavaliers 91

Posted in Golden (State) Years on June 2nd, 2017 by bill
[caption id="attachment_7661" align="alignnone" width="500"]Kevin Durant spent a lot of time last night doing this. Kevin Durant spent a lot of time last night doing this.[/caption] There were some anxious moments shortly before 6:00 last night as I waited outside the Arcata Theater Lounge for the doors to open. I was already nervous about the playoff game between the W’s and Cavs, the first since the debacle that was Game 7 of last year’s Finals, and the good people at ATL — whom for the record I dearly love — were not helping by taking their sweet time about letting us in. But by tipoff I was safely in my seat, martini in hand, and from there on things went swimmingly. There is no official “perfect game” in basketball as there is in baseball, but the Warriors’ performance in Game 1 was about as close as you can get. I’m not sure which I enjoyed more: Kevin Durant’s numerous vicious dunks, Steph Curry’s pull-up 63-footer, or LeBron James’s constant whining and crying. I say this with all due respect to LeBron, who of late has been making a convincing case to be considered possibly the best player in the history of basketball. But speaking purely objectively, he is a crybaby. He’s used to getting things way and when he doesn’t, he gets real petulant real fast. And things were not going his way last night. His team turned the ball over a lot, failed repeatedly to play defense, and appeared to visibly quit halfway through the third quarter. The Warriors, meanwhile, tied an NBA record by committing only four turnovers in the entire game. Which leads one to think that this whole thing was probably a little fluky; I don’t know if it’s possible for anyone to consistently be as good as the Warriors were last night. I expect the rest of the series to be a little more competitive. But for one night, it was a lot of fun.