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.

Round 3, Game 4: Warriors 129, Spurs 115

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 23rd, 2017 by bill
[caption id="attachment_7656" align="alignnone" width="500"]Matt Barnes celebrated the Warriors advancing to the NBA Finals by choking himself on the floor of the AT&T Center. Matt Barnes celebrated the Warriors advancing to the NBA Finals by choking himself on the floor of the AT&T Center.[/caption] Last night the Warriors completed their sweep of the pitifully depleted San Antonio Spurs, advancing to the NBA Finals with a perfect 12–0 playoff record. Which is nice, but a footnote at best. Their mission will not be complete until they win four more — almost certainly against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who had a little hiccup on Sunday when they lost a game to the also sadly depleted Boston Celtics. That was probably a fluke that the Cavs will correct going forward, but the Celtics are to be commended for at least offering a little competition. So let’s go ahead and take a minute to appreciate the W’s advancing to their third straight Finals, a remarkable run of consistent success for a team that before 2014 had managed only one playoff appearance in 20 years. Then let’s forget all about that and look to the future — we have nine days to rest and get ready for the heavy rooting that will be required starting June 1.

Round 3, Game 3: Warriors 120, Spurs 108

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 21st, 2017 by bill
[caption id="attachment_7653" align="alignnone" width="500"]Have a seat, son. Have a seat, son.[/caption] We pretty much knew what was going to happen in this game yesterday morning, when word came down that Kawhi Leonard once again would not be playing. Without him, and with point guard Tony Parker already done for the year (and possibly forever), the Spurs simply don’t have the firepower to hang with the Warriors. But they did a pretty good job of it for a quarter and change yesterday, with ex-Warrior David Lee torturing his replacement Draymond Green down on the block. Then Lee went up for a contested layup and came down funny. He left the game and did not return — he tore a patellar tendon, it turns out — and once again the Spurs were forced to turn to their bench, bringing in little-used Joel Anthony. Even after that they hung tight for awhile, but the writing was on the wall. The Warriors started to slowly pull away and while the game never turned into a blowout, there was never any doubt about the outcome. Meanwhile, over in the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers laid a historic beatdown on the Celtics in Game 2 of their series, going up 72–31 at the half and winning by 44. It is now not just possible but likely that both the W’s and the Cavs will get to the Finals without losing a game, which will be...interesting. If both teams sweep their respective series, there will be eight long, long days off before the Finals begin on June 1. How on Earth shall we keep ourselves entertained?

Round 3, Game 2: Warriors 136, Spurs 100*

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 17th, 2017 by bill
[caption id="attachment_7648" align="alignnone" width="450"]It was that kind of game. It was that kind of game.[/caption] This one gets an asterisk too, because with Kawhi Leonard out with an ankle injury, the Spurs looked nothing like the team the made the Warriors’ lives hell for the first 30 minutes of Game 1. He is their linchpin on both defense and offense, and in his absence Steph Curry went immediately into Human Torch mode, scoring 15 points in the first quarter as the W’s went up 33–16. This game was never close and not, in fact, very interesting. But again, a win is a win is a win. The Warriors need only six more of them to hoist the trophy. The hope all around is that Kawhi will be back for Saturday’s Game 3, making things a little more competitive. Meanwhile, the Eastern Conference Finals will finally get underway tonight, with the well-rested Cleveland Cavaliers facing the scrappy Boston Celtics. There are a lot of us hoping that the Celtics can provide at least a modicum of challenge for the defending champs; we shall see what we shall see.

Round 3, Game 1: Warriors 113, Spurs 111*

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 15th, 2017 by bill
kawhi Now there’s something to write about. Yesterday My Golden State Warriors and Other People’s San Antonio Spurs met in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. In the pregame show all the talk was about, do the Spurs have any chance at all against this Dubs juggernaut? Is it 80, 90, or 95% likely that the Warriors will win? In one segment, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green’s mothers sat around drinking mimosas and talking like the title was already won. I myself was telling people that any bet on the Spurs was a foolish one, that with Kawhi Leonard playing on a questionable ankle, the series would not be competitive. Then the game started. Whether it was due to rust, sunspots, or The Genius Gregg Popovich, the Warriors looked terrible from the drop, while the Spurs looked like a team with something to prove. The visitors raced out to a 30–14 lead in the first quarter as I fidgeted nervously on the living room couch, picking at a scab on my ankle. Between quarters I took a deep breath and told myself that surely this was a fluke — the W’s would shake off their lethargy and right the ship in the 2nd. But no. San Antonio’s lead ballooned to an unbelievable 25 points, dipped a bit, then stabilized at 20 at halftime. I made a sandwich and muttered to myself — we’re a third-quarter team, right? Then the second half started, and nothing was different. All the Spurs were playing well, but Kawhi was everywhere, dominating on both the offensive and defensive ends. Midway through the 3rd quarter, the W’s deficit was in the mid-20s and growing. I started mentally preparing myself for the loss and two days of reading about how overrated the Warriors were. Then, after taking a shot, Kawhi stepped backward to regain his balance and landed on a teammate’s foot, tweaking his bad ankle. He shook it off and kept playing, but a couple minutes later he shot a 3 and this time came down on Zaza Pachulia’s foot — again, as luck would have it, on his left (injured) leg. Kawhi grimaced, hobbled around a bit, and was quickly pulled from the game. And that was that. When he left, the Spurs were up 23; in the rest of the game, they were –25, which for the math-deficient adds up to –2. It wasn’t quite that easy, of course. It took superb offensive performances from Curry and Durant to pull this one out, but if Kawhi hadn’t been hurt, the Spurs would have won and I would be moping around in a bitter funk rather than writing this blog entry. That’s one reason why history is written by the winners, I think — the losers just don’t feel like it. Game 2 is tomorrow. In the meantime, we all breathlessly await the results of an MRI on Kawhi’s ankle. I honestly hope he’s OK; I want the W’s to win this series fair and square, without any more asterisks than the one that’s already attached to Game 1. As far as that goes, well, a W is a W is a W; no one in Dub Nation is inclined to give this one back, but I hope we all appreciate how lucky we got.

Series 2: Warriors 4, Jazz 0

Posted in Golden (State) Years on May 9th, 2017 by bill
[caption id="attachment_7629" align="alignnone" width="450"]Kevin Durant looms large. Kevin Durant looms large.[/caption] In the second round of the playoffs — a/k/a the Western Conference Semifinals — the Warriors slowly, methodically strangled all the life out of the Utah Jazz, a pretty good basketball team who just didn’t have the firepower to compete at the rarefied level the W’s currently occupy. It’s possible that no one does — with the possible exception of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are also 8–0 in the playoffs, looming on the horizon like a coming storm. But in the meantime the Dubs will have to play the winner of the San Antonio Spurs/Houston Rockets series, now tied at 2–2. It is of course Wrong to look past any opponent, and those are both quality teams who are capable of causing trouble. But neither has looked what you’d call formidable up to this point, and the Warriors will get to sit back and rest as they fight a war of attrition. The only problem worth noting at the moment is the continued absence of Coach Steve Kerr, who had surgery this week to address his spinal fluid leak. This is less of a problem for us than it is for Steve, who has apparently been dealing with brutal pain throughout the season. I hope he feels better, whether or not he makes it back onto the court. In the meantime, the sun is shining, so I’m going to shut down this machine and go walk around in it.

Series 1: Warriors 4, Trail Blazers 0

Posted in Golden (State) Years on April 27th, 2017 by bill
[caption id="attachment_7601" align="alignnone" width="300"]JaVale McGee came up huge against Portland — and man, does it feel weird to be saying that. JaVale McGee came up huge against Portland — and man, does it feel weird to be saying that.[/caption] I haven’t been blogging about the playoffs so far this year, for a couple of reasons. One of them is a desire — which I think I share with the whole of Dub Nation — to do everything differently from the way we did it last year. The loss in Game 7 of the Finals left a bad taste in our mouths that will not be cleansed until and unless our team hoists the trophy again. Which does tend to take a little bit of the fun out of things. Long gone are the carefree, overachieving Warriors of 2014–15. With the addition of Kevin Durant, this year’s team carries a heavy burden of high expectations, and anything short of a title will be considered an abject failure. They’re still entertaining to watch, though. In Game 4 of the opening-round series against Portland, they dropped 45 first-quarter points on the Blazers in a blinding blitzkrieg of basketball brutality. They completed the sweep three quarters later and now await the winner of the Utah Jazz/LA Clippers series. Along the way they’ve had to deal with a bit of what constitutes adversity in the current state of things, playing two games without Durant and — more to the point — losing head coach Steve Kerr to a recurrence of complications from his back surgery at the beginning of last season. Kerr is out indefinitely, which is a bit worrisome. Yes, they’ve won plenty of games without him before, starting the 2015–16 season 24–0 and then 39–4 under assistant Luke Walton. But being without your Maximum Leader in a tight playoff series — assuming there’s going to be one — is different. Still, on the spectrum of possible things to worry about at this point in history, it’s pretty minor. So I’m going to do my best to leave all that baggage aside and enjoy the rest of these games for what they are: games. Right?  

What Time Is It?

Posted in Golden (State) Years on March 11th, 2017 by bill
I haven’t written much about the Warriors this season because it has been, and continues to be, my officially stated position that the games that matter are those that will be played in April, May, and June. But given the way things have been going lately, it may be time to say a few words. Until about two weeks ago the Dubs were sailing along, looking set to wrap up the #1 seed in the Western Conference without much effort. New acquisition Kevin Durant was having a remarkably productive and efficient season, and the biggest complaint I was hearing from W’s fans was that it was kind of boring how badly they were beating everybody. Then, in a road game against Washington, Wizards center Marcin Gortat knocked over Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who rolled onto Durant’s knee. After holding our breath for 12 hours or so, we learned that Durant had a bruised tibia and was projected to be out for four weeks. This was not so bad; the worry immediately after the injury had been that he might be done for the year. In the meantime, the Dubs lost that game against Washington, then the next one against Chicago — the first time they’d lost back-to-back games in two years. After bouncing back to beat the Knicks and Hawks, this week they again lost back-to-back games to Boston and, last night, Minnesota. Tonight, they play the San Antonio Spurs in a matchup many of us had circled as one to look forward to. But coach Steve Kerr says he’s going to rest Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala; and with the Spurs missing Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, this one had gone from marquee matchup to battle of the benches. When the smoke clears, the Warriors may have lost three games in a row and five of their last seven, and be clinging to a tenuous half-game lead over the Spurs in the standings. This is no time to panic, though. I mean, if you wanted to, you could, but I don’t think it would be a good idea. Every season has its ups and downs; last year the W’s put off the downs until they got to the playoffs, which didn’t end up working out so well. In fact I think that this is a good time to affirm that, to coin a phrase, We Believe Again. (Welcome home, Matt Barnes.) Steph and Klay will shake off their shooting slump, Draymond and Andre will get this stretch of peculiar behavior out of their systems, KD’s knee will heal up, and all will be well with the world. And when it does I’ll be there to say, politely and with a smile, “I told you so.”

It’s a Mad, Mad, Kevin Durant World

Posted in Golden (State) Years on July 7th, 2016 by bill
Kevin Durant is a Warrior. It feels weird to say it, even though I've had a few days to get used to the idea. Already boasting the two best shooters on the planet, my team has now added a lethal offensive machine with big-man size and guard skills. It doesn't seem quite fair. Certainly the fans in Oklahoma City feel that way. When the news came down on the 4th of July, they started throwing #35 jerseys onto their barbecues. Just a few short weeks ago, the Thunder were up 3-1 on the Dubs in the Conference Finals, and folks in OKC were starting to plan their parade route. Now they're down to just one superstar, and he may be on his way out the door soon too. But enough about the poor unfortunate Mr. Floyd, let's talk about the rich and prosperous Mr. Butch. The Warriors will begin the 2016-17 season as prohibitive favorites, which is natural under the circumstances but carries with it its own set of difficulties. Any little hiccup, any indication that the new combination of players is not immediately gelling, will be magnified into a colossal disaster that will have the Charles Barkleys and Stephen A. Smiths of the world looking even more smug than usual. And of course, attempts to build All-Star teams don't always work out. Remember the Shaq/Kobe/Karl Malone/Gary Payton fiasco? So to paraphrase Winston Wolf, let's not initiate the fellatio just yet. Still. Imagine Klay in one corner, Steph in the other, Durant up top. What will defenses do? Their heads will explode just trying to decide who to worry about the most. It's going to be fun. And that's the key here, I think. People assume Durant made his decision to chase rings, and I'm sure that's a big part of it; but I bet he also thought about how much fun it would be to play on a team that brings elegance and joy to the game, along with skill and passion. There’s no point messing around — NBA careers are short, as is life, but the months between now and opening night are going to be long.