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.
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:
Once again last night the Warriors failed to play up to the lofty standards they’ve set for themselves this year, and once again they escaped with a W.
They looked terrible in the first quarter, making us a tad anxious on Evergreen Avenue, where I was watching my first playoff game at home in many years (thanks to Sling TV). Since relocating to Humboldt County I’ve mostly watched the games in bars, and without the distraction of the bar atmosphere and the alcohol, damn those commercial breaks are long. Especially when your much-favored team goes down 11 in the first quarter.
The subplot getting all the play in this game concerned Pelicans coach Monty Williams, who made some ill-advised comments before the game about how loud it gets in Oracle Arena:
Although the first game of this year’s playoffs had the right result, it was a little disappointing. For the first three quarters everything was just as it should be, with the Warriors slowly building a lead that reached 25 late in the 3rd. But in the 4th they took their foot off the gas and let the Pelicans cut the difference all the way down to 4, leading to some tense moments in Dub Nation.
I was watching at Sidelines in Arcata, after catching the first half at Big Pete’s Pizza. There was suggestion from some quarters that this may have been a mistake, that changing venues when things were going well may have been bad juju. But the W’s had a great 3rd quarter after the switch, so I’m not taking the fall for this one.
Blame can be more appropriately placed on bunch of missed free throws down the stretch, including an uncharacteristic clang by Steph Curry. For most of the game Steph was his usual scintillating self, taking advantage of the Pelicans’ determination to run him off the 3-point line to repeatedly take the ball to the hole. He had some sweet finishes, including a one-handed reverse high off the glass that he sunk despite a hard foul by Anthony Davis.
Davis was playing in the first playoff game of his career, and he struggled mightily for most of the game, but pulled it together to score 20 in the final quarter. He will be a force throughout the series; the Dubs will have to figure out how to deal with him. They’ll also have to figure out how to score while Steph is on the bench, which was a problem last night, causing Steve Kerr to shorten his usual rest in the 4th. Klay Thompson, I’m looking at you; the 6-for-17 shooting and two big misses from the line, these can be forgiven, but don’t let it happen again.
Game 2 is tomorrow night in Oakland. A little more definitive statement from the home team would be nice. Selah.