NBA Finals, Game 4: Warriors 108, Cavaliers 85

Posted in Golden (State) Years on June 9th, 2018 by bill
Hugs all around.

Hugs all around.

At the beginning of this year’s playoffs, the conventional wisdom was that whoever won the West would hammer whoever came out of the East. And sometimes the conventional wisdom turns out to be right. Last night the Warriors completed a sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers with a definitive, whistle-to-whistle domination on the Cavs’ home court.

And there was much rejoicing. Though maybe not quite as much as last year; one is forced to admit that after three championships in four years, a little bit of the novelty has worn off. When the Champagne (actually Anderson Valley Brut) was gone and the coverage of postgame revelry gave way to local news, the feeling here on Evergreen Avenue was of pleasant exhaustion more than active jubilation.

Do I feel bad about my boys claiming another title when the fans in Houston, in Oklahoma City, in two dozen other cities would give their left arms to see their teams hoist the trophy? Not really. Does any fan ever say, “Enough, please stop winning now.”? If they win three or four more we might be there; but probably not.

Read more »

NBA Finals, Game 3: Warriors 110, Cavaliers 102

Posted in Golden (State) Years on June 7th, 2018 by bill

kdkl

On the 4th of July two years ago, when Kevin Durant announced his intention to sign with the Warriors, we knew there would be nights like this. Nights when the Splash Brothers were struggling (3-for-15 combined on threes) and the Warriors were having a hard time putting points on the board.

Two years ago, the Dubs would have lost this game. But last night KD calmly went about his business, scoring 43 points to go with 13 rebounds and 7 assists. Again and again throughout the night he jabbed daggers in, and then with 49 seconds left, he finally hit the heart:

Read more »

NBA Finals, Game 2: Warriors 122, Cavaliers 103

Posted in Golden (State) Years on June 4th, 2018 by bill

This game unfolded strangely for me and mine, as we had tickets for the Ween show at the Arvest Bank Theatre in Kansas City that was starting just a few minutes after tipoff. The plan was to DVR the game and maintain a news blackout until we could watch it in the A.M., and things were going swimmingly until about an hour into the show. This was when Dean Ween — somewhat randomly, if you ask me, since Ween is from New Jersey — asked the crowd, “Does anybody know the Cavs score?”

I managed to clamp my hands to my ears fast enough to avoid spoilers, but not so lucky was my wife, who around the same time received an unexpected text message from her mother revealing the result. From her subsequent demeanor I gathered there wasn’t much to worry about — but it was still fun to watch Steph Curry slowly tunnel into the Cavaliers’ chest cavity and ever-so-gently pull their hearts out.1

Of special note is the shot that occurs about 1:15 into this video, where Steph is moving away from the basket as the shot clock expires, then suddenly turns and tosses up an apparent prayer that swishes through. What’s truly amazing about it is that if you look close, you can see that it is no accident; he knows exactly what is about to transpire. He gathers himself, pivots on one leg, raises up, and launches a rainbow that doesn’t even ruffle the net.

I long ago ran out of superlatives for this kind of thing, but I never get tired of watching it. I am, on the other hand, just plain tired; I don’t handle this rock’n’roll lifestyle as well as I used to. That’s all for today. Game 3 is Wednesday.

NBA Finals, Game 1: Warriors 124, Cavaliers 114

Posted in Golden (State) Years on June 1st, 2018 by bill

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts to a call during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cavaliers in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, May 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) ORG XMIT: OAS154

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 9.09.18 AM

You can never have too many pictures of LeBron James suffering.

You can never have too many pictures of LeBron James suffering.

Thanks to careful planning, I was so well fortified with vodka martinis and white wine last night that I did not suffer unduly when the Warriors almost blew this game. In a just universe, the Cavs probably would have won; they fought and clawed and hung tight for 48 minutes, and were only undone in the end by the technically-correct-but-wow reversal of a foul call and a monumentally boneheaded play by the ever-surprising J.R. Smith.

Fortunately, we live in the real world, where 51 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists from The Minotaur Currently Known as LeBron James are not necessarily enough to earn a victory. A world where a charge call on Kevin Durant with 36 seconds left in the game is reviewed to determine whether LeBron was in the restricted area and ends up being changed to a block, resulting in Durant free throws that tie the game. A world where George Hill has a chance secure the win by making two free throws, but misses the second, and the rebound is corralled by Smith, who then inexplicably dribbles away from the basket as the clock runs out, sending the game into overtime.2

J.R. Smith has always been, to put it politely, mercurial. Or to put it not politely, a nutjob. His shenanigans over the years have been many; in this case it appears that he literally didn’t know the score, thinking his team was ahead and that running out the clock would ensure victory. On the court afterwards, he appeared to say “I thought we were up”; in a postgame interview he denied this. As The Ringer recounts it,

When the doors to the Cavs locker room finally opened, more reporters than I could count crammed inside the cramped space and surrounded Smith. But while [Tyronn] Lue, [Steve] Kerr, and everyone who watched the game believed that Smith thought the Cavs were ahead, J.R. said he knew the game was tied. He told us that he dribbled out because Kevin Durant was in his way and he wanted “to get space to bring it out and maybe get a shot off.” Then — and this was the truly ridiculous part on a night full of ridiculous moments — he kinda threw LeBron under the bus.

Western Conference Finals, Game 7: Warriors 101, Rockets 92

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 29th, 2018 by bill

westconf2018

At some point during the first half last night — another oddly somnambulant performance by the Warriors in a literal must-win — every Dubs fan was girding for the nightmare scenario where our team lost. I mean, not even making it to the Finals — can you imagine?

Yes, we are spoiled. But then again who, outside of the 7th and 19th biggest markets in the USA, wanted to see a series between two one-man teams led unlikable superstars? (By which I mean LeBron James — of whom more later — and James Harden, who with Chris Paul sidelined is back to being the Houston Rockets’ sole marquee player.) And yet that seemed a strong possibility as the Warriors committed four fouls in the first three minutes of the game — including three by Klay Thompson — and went down by as much as 15 before limping into halftime trailing by a relatively modest 11.

We were watching at our friends Gary and Genia’s house in Trinidad, where it was a spectacularly beautiful day. We spent the halftime break staring out at Moonstone Beach, trying to convince ourselves that everything was going to be fine. And there was every reason to think it would be — the W’s had been in exactly this situation two days previously, and outscored the Rockets 64–25 in a magical second half.

But that’s the thing about magic: It’s unpredictable. You can’t just summon it at will.

Or can you? Read more »

Western Conference Finals, Game 6: Warriors 115, Rockets 86

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 27th, 2018 by bill
Klay was fired up.

Klay was fired up.

And so was Steph. And so was I.

And so was Steph. And so was I.

Last night was possibly the hardest I’ve ever worked as a basketball fan. I spent most of the game standing about two feet from the screen, often in a defensive crouch if the Rockets had the ball. This was good for my calves but maybe not for my heart, which has suffered a lot of sports-related stress over the last week.

Despite all my efforts the first quarter went horribly wrong, with the Warriors misfiring left and right, committing turnover after turnover, while everything the Rockets threw up seemed to find the bottom of the net. After one quarter Houston led 39–22 and all over the Dub Nation the faithful were contemplating methods of self-harm.

The W’s found their footing a little in the 2nd and managed to go to halftime down only 10. This was considerably better than the worst-case scenario that had seemed about to unfold, but hardly reassuring. I spent the whole halftime break pacing back and forth between the living room and the office, firing off alternately despairing and hopeful text messages to my fellow fans.

Then the second half started, and all of a sudden it was like someone had taken the kryptonite away. The Warriors scored 11 straight points — including two Klay Thompson threes, one by Steph Curry, and a nasty Kevin Durant dunk — and never looked back. They led by 7 at the end of the quarter, and never once in the 4th did Houston look capable of getting back in the game. Read more »

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.

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

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 23rd, 2018 by bill

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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?

 

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. Read more »

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

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 17th, 2018 by bill
Yeah, it's like that sometimes.

Yeah, it’s like that sometimes.

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?