Round 3, Game 5: Warriors 104, Rockets 90

So here we are: It’s almost June, only two NBA teams are still in the championship hunt, and one of them is Our Golden State Warriors. That’s bizarre. That’s new. But it’s pretty cool too.

The W’s closed out the Houston Rockets last night in a game that was less than artistic. Steph Curry was the quiet, facilitating version of the basketball genius he is, not the mind-blowing, bomb-dropping version. Klay Thompson got into foul trouble and then took a knee to the head from Splash Brother Hater Trevor Ariza. On the other side, James Harden had an absolutely miserable night, setting a new record for most turnovers in an NBA playoff game with an unlucky 13; it was almost like he was cursed.

Who did have a good game was Harrison The Senator Black Falcon Playoff Barnes. He scored 24 points, 13 of them in the 4th quarter, including a personal 9-0 run that pretty much decided the game. And Festus Ezeli, of all people, stepped up with 12 huge points and 9 huge rebounds. This is a team that knows how to share – the ball, the heroics, the limelight…

We will be seeing a lot of Riley Curry in the next week, as the media struggles to fill up time before the Finals get underway on June 4. There are seven long, long, basketball-free days between now and then. How do we distract ourselves? Ideas?

Round 3, Game 4: Rockets 128, Warriors 115

Steph Curry walks off the court after whacking his head. But it's Andrew Bogut who looks concussed.

At about 7 o’clock PDT last night I was sitting at a table at Tomo in Arcata with the family, eating oysters and sautéed peppers, drinking hot sake. There was warmth, there was merriment, even though the Warriors were getting spanked by the Rockets, having given up 45 points in the first quarter. They had been down 22-7 and 25-10, but the screen at the bar was about 20 feet away, so I could barely make out what was happening in the game. Which was a mitzvah.

Then I saw something horrifying out of the corner of my eye. Stephen Curry tumbled over Trevor Ariza, landed hard on his head and neck, and didn’t get up. For awhile.

There was no way to be sure, at the moment, that he hadn’t broken his neck. ESPN kept showing the replay and it looked really bad. Medical staff clustered around Steph’s prone body wearing grim expressions, the broadcast cut to a commercial break, and I felt like I might vomit on the dinner table.

As Warriors fans we had been waiting for this moment, when God Almighty would finally punish us for all the fun we’d been having. We are not accustomed to prosperity and don’t feel entirely comfortable with it, and all throughout this sun-kissed season have been expecting the eclipse at any moment.

But a few minutes later Steph arose and walked off the court to audible sighs of relief from all over Dub Nation. The game continued and he even came back to play in the second half, a move of which I did not personally approve, but no one in a position of authority asked me.

The Warriors had gone on a nice run when Steph went down, and kept making runs in the second half, but just couldn’t quite get there. James Harden was once again out of his mind, scoring seemingly at will and finishing with 45 points. So the Warriors lost for the first time in 16 days and who cares? Tomorrow Curry will be back in uniform, the Dubs will be back in Oakland, and life will go on.

Round 3, Game 3: Warriors 115, Rockets 80

It's good.

In the conclusion of the last post I said:

It is possible, I suppose, that the Dubs will find the extra gear they haven’t had so far in this series, and crush the dreams of the good people of Houston.

And, wow, what do you know? Last night the Rockets looked listless from the drop, even though they were playing at home; and the Warriors were in full-on soul-destroying mode, playing great defense that turned into easy offense, and just flowing, man. They were up 25 at halftime, the final differential was 35, and it was not actually that close.

Steph Curry had the kind of game that makes sportswriters reach for their thesauruses. Fran Blinebury of called him “A silk buzzsaw, a lacquered jackhammer, steel-belted seduction, a digital prayer.” Whatever that means. I don’t think I have the right words for it either. It wasn’t just his 40 points, his 7-of-9 3-point shooting. It wasn’t just the left-handed scoop that kissed off the glass all the way up at the top of the square and dropped softly through the net. There was one play where Steph boxed out 7-foot behemoth Dwight Howard, grabbed the rebound with one hand, and got fouled attempting a layup. He was just awesome. I don’t know what else to say. Look at this:

Game 4 is tomorrow night in Houston, and you have to wonder how the Rockets will bounce back from the whupping they just received. Will they be able to salvage a little pride by sending the series back to Oakland for Game 5? It’s hard to imagine somehow, but you never know. I’m not going to even worry about it. Life is too good at the moment.

Round 3, Game 2: Warriors 99, Rockets 98

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 James 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.

Round 3, Game 1: Warriors 110, Rockets 106

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.