Round 3, Game 2: Warriors 99, Rockets 98

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 22nd, 2015 by bill

The clock struck 0, and there was much rejoicing.

I had hoped that the Warriors would come out last night and make a definitive statement about who is the better team. And for a while it looked like it was going to happen; as SFGate tells it, in the first half,

The Warriors used a 17-4 run that spanned the first and second quarters to take a 49-32 lead on Barnes’ three-pointer with 7:43 remaining in the first half, and the Rockets were seemingly unraveling. Harden was yapping in the timeout huddles, and McHale was hushing him. Howard tapped McHale on the shoulder but got no reaction from his coach.

But then a funny thing happened. The Rockets pulled themselves together and got back in the game, and it was neck-and-neck the rest of the way. Eventually, the Warriors ended up leading by one point with about seven seconds to go.

I don’t think anyone in Dub Nation enjoyed seeing Harden dribbling up the court in a position to win the game with a score, after he’d spent the last ninety-five and a half minutes of basketball torturing us by throwing it in from everywhere, knowing that he is the most prolific drawer of fouls in the NBA today. It was definitely a tense moment at the homestead on Evergreen Ave. A wildcat did growl; two riders were approaching, and the wind began to howl.
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Round 3, Game 1: Warriors 110, Rockets 106

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 20th, 2015 by bill

This one was a little too close for comfort. The Dubs fell way behind in the first half, went on a scintillating 25-6 run to take the lead at halftime, then tried but failed to shake the Rockets for most of the 3rd and 4th quarters. Every time it seemed like the home team was about to pull away, James Harden would hit some ridiculous shot. He showed the whole arsenal last night: three-pointers, sweet layups that kissed off the glass, and pull-up jumpers that swished. He made Klay Thompson, generally considered one of the best defenders in the NBA, look like a child trying to guard an adult. The man can ball.

But so can Steph Curry, who notched 34 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists without apparent effort. I mean obviously he was working hard out there; but when he gets it rolling, he looks so smooth that it just seems perfectly natural. Steph got a big assist from Shaun Livingston, who had 16 points in the first half when the Warriors needed them desperately.

The Nation finally breathed a sigh of relief when the W’s went on a frantic, seemingly back-breaking 11-0 run to go up 108-97 with two minutes left. Then we started hyperventilating as the Dubs repeatedly turned the ball over and the lead dwindled. I was pacing around Sidelines looking at every screen in turn, hoping that on one of them the game would be over. The Rockets got to within 2 when Trevor Ariza hit a 3 at the :16 mark; but then Chef Curry got the ball, got fouled, and of course hit the shots, and that was that.

The series can go two ways from here. In one scenario, the Rockets are actually this good, and we get a competitive series that goes 6 or 7 games. In the other, the Warriors shake off the somnolence that seemed to affect them at times yesterday, make a few adjustments, and dominate in the next three games. This may depend in part on the health of Dwight Howard, who couldn’t do much last night after teammate Josh Smith rolled on his knee; then again the Rockets actually looked better with Howard off the floor, so who knows.

We’ll find out starting tomorrow night at about 6:12 PDT.

Round 2, Game 6: Warriors 108, Grizzlies 95

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 18th, 2015 by bill

So what did you expect?

I didn’t even bother to watch this game, so confident was I that the Warriors would finish off the Grizzlies and advance to the Conference Finals for the first time in my tenure as a fan. (In fact there were other reasons as well; see below.)

I did manage to hear the last half of the 4th quarter on the web while wandering around the grounds of the Coppola Winery with my main squeeze. NBA League Pass was streaming the Memphis broadcast, not the Warriors’, which was disappointing at first, then kind of fun as we repeatedly heard the play-by-play guy tell us that Steph Curry was shooting a 3 and then say, very sadly and quietly, “Good.”

Down the stretch the BFA* just plain tore the Grizzlies’ hearts out, starting with a 63-foot swish at the 3rd quarter buzzer. There is something special about that young man. He is going to be a star someday.

So it’s on to the Conference Finals against the Houston Rockets, who survived a crazy rollercoaster of a 7-game series against the LA Clippers. I had kind of hoped the Dubs would have a chance to avenge last year’s first-round defeat, but the Clips flamed out in spectacular fashion, blowing a huge lead in Game 6 and then choking like Mama Cass in Game 7. So it’s hard to complain too much.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling extremely confident of how the Warriors will do against the Rockets. Although they were a higher seed, I don’t think the Rockets are actually as good as the Grizzlies, and we saw how that went once the Dubs took a couple of punches and got their shit together. The basketball gods hate arrogance, but this seems like a perfectly reasonable time to expect success.

Also, the night the Dubs closed out the Grizz was also the night I finally got engaged to the love of my life. So there’s that.



* baby-faced assassin

Round 2, Game 5: Warriors 98, Grizzles 78

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 14th, 2015 by bill

Dee-Fense

The final score of last night’s game was 98-78. That first number is nice, but it’s the second number that really matters. After decades of watching Warriors teams that a) didn’t know defense existed or b) paid lip service to the idea with no follow-through, we finally have a team that grasps the concept. Turns out defense wins games. Who knew?

Most the press today focused on the fact that the Dubs were 14 of 30 from three-point range, and this was awesome, to be sure. When Andre Iguodala and Harrison (Playoff) Barnes are raining in bombs from long range in addition to the Splash Brothers, it gets a little ridiculous. After the game Memphis head coach Dave Joerger was quoted as saying, “When Iguodala is knocking in threes, it’s like, ‘Not another one. Not another guy.’ ”

But those 98 points would mean nothing if the Grizz had scored 100. Instead, they shot 33-for-83 from the field for 39.8%, well below the W’s three-point percentage of 46.7. This does not happen by accident. Defense happens when you concentrate on defense.

The Grizzlies demonstrated this in Games 2 and 3, when they hounded the Warriors into a frenetic mindset that took them completely out of their game. So what has changed? Some will point to the absence of Tony Allen, who sat out most of Game 4 and all of Game 5 with a hamstring injury. And that has helped, no doubt. But I think the Dubs have just plain figured the Grizz out — double-teaming Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph relentlessly and using their speed to close out on shooters when necessary. This creates turnovers that fuel the Dubs offense, and when they get it clicking, they are like Godzilla stomping on Tokyo.

This does not guarantee a victory in Game 6 tomorrow. The Grizzles will get Allen back and they’ll be at home, and as we’ve seen they can be a formidable opponent. But if the Warriors continue to play at their current high level on both defense and offense, man, they’re going to be hard to beat.

Round 2, Game 4: Warriors 101, Grizzlies 84

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 12th, 2015 by bill

This Grizzlies fan changed allegiances in mid-game, offering Steph Curry a high-five.

All around Dub Nation last night people were hunkered down in their safest-feeling locations, praying to whatever higher power they believed in, sacrificing whatever animals they felt like they could do without. And lo and behold, Steph Curry DID return from the dead, scoring 33 points to go with 8 rebounds and 5 assists, playing great defense, and generally looking like the MVP for the first time since being handed the trophy.

After resembling a post-Crystal Chamber Superman for two games, Steph got his mojo back, with the help of a little sage advice from Steve Kerr. Maybe the most telling moment: Early in the game Steph had a breakaway, tried to dunk, and almost blew it; the ball smacked off the rim and just barely rolled in. In the second quarter he had another freebie, and instead of settling for the layup, this time he threw it down with authority.

The rest of the team helped a lot, of course. Draymond Green was Good Draymond, Harrison Barnes was Playoff Barnes, and Andre Iguodala was Andre Iguodala, Professional Basketball Player. Andrew Bogut scrapped and battled with the Grizz giants and Klay Thompson, despite another off night, worked his ass off and was +18. Even the little-seen David Lee pitched in, scoring 5 points and providing some key hustle plays.

It’s funny how things work sometimes. No game in this series has been that close; instead, the Warriors and Grizzles have taken turns looking like the vastly superior team. Basketball is a game of runs and momentum, and this series has seen two huge swings from side to side, with Game 4′s score ending up almost identical to Game 1′s. Hopefully there won’t be any more. We’ll see on Wednesday when the series moves back to Oakland.

Round 2, Game 3: Grizzlies 99, Warriors 89

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 10th, 2015 by bill

Will the real Steph Curry please stand up?

Let the official worrying begin.

One game could be written off as a fluke, but last night’s contest was a virtual carbon copy of Game 2. The Grizzlies’ swarming defense forced the Warriors into bad shots and turnovers, Stephen Curry continued to be off his game after winning the MVP award, and the Dubs as a whole looked confused and overwhelmed. To their credit, after being down 15 at the end of 3, they battled back and got it to within 4 with about three minutes left. Draymond Green went coast-to-coast for a layup that would have cut the lead to two, but couldn’t get the shot to go down. Courtney Lee hit a three at the other end, and that was that.

The first half was just plain miserable. A self-hating Warriors fan two stools down from me at Sidelines wouldn’t shut up about how bad the team was sucking, and while he wasn’t exactly wrong, I can’t stand that kind of negativity in my space. At halftime we relocated around the corner to Tomo, where we had sake and Japanese food and watched the rest of the game in peace. It was actually fairly entertaining, just didn’t have the right result.

The Dubs face their first honest-to-god must-win game of the season tomorrow night in Memphis. Win that one, and they tie the series at 2-2 and get home court advantage back. Lose it and they go down 3-1, which is pretty much a death sentence. There’s not much to say about this; either they will or they won’t. Game time is 6:30, be there or be square.

Round 2, Game 2: Grizzlies 97, Warriors 90

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 6th, 2015 by bill

Props to Mike Conley. See you in Memphis.

In retrospect, you could kind of see this one coming. At 7:30 last night, Warriors fans were ogling Steph Curry’s MVP trophy and arguing over where the championship parade was going to be. At 9:00, not so much; our team scored only 39 points in the first half to Memphis’s 50, struggling to adjust to a suddenly inspired Grizzlies defense.

The second half was not much better. Shots were clanging all over the place. Klay Thompson missed a wide-open 3 and an uncontested dunk – on the same possession. Steph Curry shot 2-for-11 from beyond the arc. It was just a bad night all around. Thank heavens for the good people at Sidelines Sports Bar in Arcata, who kept me supplied with enough alcohol to numb the pain of the first Warriors loss this postseason. It had to happen sooner or later, but that doesn’t make it fun.

For all the reasons enumerated above, I’m not feeling especially loquacious today, and I just read an article that says everything I want to say in better language than I’m capable of at the moment. I herewith refer you to:

http://www.goldenstateofmind.com/2015/5/6/8559353/nba-golden-state-warriors-memphis-grizzlies-2015-playoffs-game-2

Game 3 in Memphis is not until Saturday, which gives the Dubs plenty of time to a) stew in bitterness or b) come up with some new ideas. I trust it will be the latter.

Round 2, Game 1: Warriors 101, Grizzlies 86

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 4th, 2015 by bill

The Grizzlies' Tony Allen looked lost, wandering out onto the court in the middle of a dance routine. He was subsequently booed every time he touched the ball.

The Memphis Grizzles supposedly present a problem for the Warriors, because they are so big and strong down low, but it didn’t look that way yesterday. Memphis bully-boys Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol got theirs, but it was not nearly enough to make a difference. Admittedly, the Grizz were playing without their star point guard, Mike Conley, who recently sustained some facial fractures (and appeared on the sidelines sporting a creepy, blood-saturated left eyeball). But the Dubs were able to pretty easily return everything Memphis threw at them, and served quite a few aces to make the game not really close.

I was on a barstool at Sidelines, settled in for a tough slog, but the writing was on the wall by halftime. One Warriors fan there confessed to me that he was now hoping for a 16-0 run through the playoffs. Yes, we are getting greedy. One game at a time, people, one game at a time.

Today Steph Curry was officially named NBA MVP, surprising absolutely no one with internet access. He had a pretty routine Game 1, scoring 22 points to go with 7 assists, and generally drawing so much attention that the Grizzles’ defense seemed to forget that there were other players on the team. This left people like Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut to roam at will, creating all kinds of wide-open passing lanes. Even Klay Thompson, who you’d think people might want to guard, was sometimes left alone. This is a big part of why Steph is MVP; he makes the players around him better just by being there, making every eyeball turn his way.

No reason to expect that to change in Game 2, which is tomorrow night in Oakland. Conley is not expected to play, from what I’ve heard. It will also be Cinco de Mayo, with Mother’s Day on the horizon; so Sonya Curry will no doubt be enjoying her customary courtside margarita.

Round 1, Game 4: Warriors 109, Pelicans 98

Posted in Golden (State) Years on April 27th, 2015 by bill

After the Game 3 debacle, the Pelicans decided to give their fans white T-shirts instead of red ones. It didn't help.

There was not much at stake in this game; at worst, the Warriors would have faced Game 5 at home, where they have not lost since the Wilson administration. But instead they came out firing on all cylinders, with Draymond Green going for 20, 5, and 6 in the first half, Steph Curry doing Steph Curry things, and everybody else chipping in here and there.

For the first time in these playoffs it felt like it was OK to just have fun. I was watching at my buddy Matt’s house in Alameda, where the whiskey flows like water, and we had a good old time. This was not a blowout, exactly – the Pelicans got it to within 7 in the 4th quarter – but the game never seemed to really be in doubt, and it was not as close as the final score indicates.

Now the Dubs will have at least a week off before they face their next opponent, most likely the Memphis Grizzlies, who are up 3-0 on the Portland Trail Blazers at the moment. There may be more to say in the meantime, but R&R is the order of the day; there’s a long way to go still.

Round 1, Game 3: Warriors 123, Pelicans 119

Posted in Golden (State) Years on April 24th, 2015 by bill

Five things to notice about this photo: 1) the desperate horror of the kid at the the lower-left; 2) the resigned despair of the grown man at the right with the T-shirt over his shoulder; 3) the woman in Draymond's right armpit, fruitlessly praying for a miss; 4) what appears to be Charles Barkley Photoshopped in at the far left; 5) Steph Curry's closed eyes.

I’d like to say I never doubted.

But the Warriors had played three of their worst quarters of the season. They appeared to be stunned by the relentless onslaught of the Pelicans, who were energized by a New Orleans crowd watching its first home playoff game in four years. I spent that time folding laundry and scowling as the Dubs took bad shots, turned the ball over, and utterly failed to play the tenacious D they’re known for.

At the start of the 3rd quarter it was 89-69 Pelicans, and while a comeback from that was not a physical impossibility, it did not seem likely. The Warriors didn’t really need this game, anyway; I would have been fine letting New Orleans have its moment, then crushing them in Game 4.

The players on the floor had other ideas. After looking lost for three quarters, the Dubs could suddenly do no wrong, making clutch shot after clutch shot, getting offensive rebound after offensive rebound. They got it to 12 with 4:39 left, 10 with 3:56 left, then 8 with 3:34 to go, at which point the Pelicans took a timeout.

And they needed one. Basketball is a game of momentum, and when a big lead starts to slip away — especially when you’re a young team playing a heavy favorite — you start to get that “uh-oh” feeling. You could see it on the faces of the New Orleans fans, who seemed to know what was coming. These excerpts from the scoresheet tell the story:
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