It was kind of a shitty day yesterday. Prince died, the Warriors lost. The less said about it the better, I think. We’ll talk later.
Dub Nation was a little nervous ahead of this game when we learned that Steph Curry, who is nursing a sore ankle and foot, would not be playing. Steph is our security blanket, our good luck charm, the target of our whispered prayers. Some of us lay in bed at night counting Curry threes, and we never run out before we fall asleep.
Without him the Warriors are still a very, very good basketball team; they just lack that element of the supernatural that he brings, the one that makes opposing defenses scramble around like madmen and creates easy shots for everyone else. So last night, they had to work harder for everything, which is probably good for them. Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston all made big contributions, with Draymond Green his usual stalwart self, and Mo Buckets and the Brazilian Blur providing some scoring punch.
On the other side, James Harden was in top foul-drawing form, going to the line 15 times on some highly questionable calls, including a remarkable number of three-shot fouls. Then again, Klay shot 16 free throws, so maybe I can’t complain too much; and fortunately Harden is not interested in playing defense, so he gave some of those points right back on the other end.
The series is 2–0 now, with Game 3 in Houston on Thursday. Hopefully Steph will be back for that one, but even if he’s not, I think everything is going to be OK.
That the Warriors handled the Houston Rockets easily last night seems almost beside the point, as old nightmares revived themselves when Steph Curry came up limping in the 2nd quarter. He had just scored a bucket to put the W’s up 26 when he turned to run back on D and spontaneously tweaked his ankle, just like he used to in the bad old days.
Somehow these things always seem to happen against the Houston Rockets, who last year managed to concuss (or near-concuss) both Steph and Klay Thompson in the Western Conference Finals. Word at the moment is that Steph is fine, that he’ll miss a game at most, but I still don’t like it. The Rockets’ strategy – and admittedly it’s a smart one – seems to be to harass Steph as much as possible; in the first quarter he almost got into it with Patrick Beverly, whose physical defense included an elbow to the face. So it behooves us, and I use that word advisedly, to get this series over with as quickly as possible.
I didn’t get to watch the whole game, or even much of it, as we had houseguests and I was trying to be good. But I did happen to catch Curry tussling with Beverly, getting hit with a technical, and then going apeshit, outscoring the Rockets 16-15 in the first quarter. I was not watching when the injury happened, of which I am glad. It was kind of a strange day all around, one that ended late, with a sparsely attended but very entertaining concert by Chuck Prophet and Garland Jeffreys. Thankfully today is a day of rest. I think we all need it.
It is done. Last night the Golden State Warriors defeated the Memphis Grizzlies, 125–104, to secure their 73rd win of the season against 9 losses. That’s a record.
Meanwhile, down in Southern California, Kobe Bryant just had to screw us one more time by scoring 60 points in his last game and siphoning off an inordinate amount of media attention. After the euphoria of the W’s victory, I had to sit there fuming as ESPN showed Kobe’s seemingly endless press conference.
But it’s all good. It wouldn’t do, anyway, to get overly excited about the regular season when the real season – a.k.a. the playoffs – starts on Saturday. I won’t mention that Steph Curry made three-pointers numbers 393–402, obliterating his own record of 286 that he set last year. I won’t mention that he scored 46 points on 15–24 from the field while it took Kobe 50 shot attempts to get his 60. Just another day at the office. Now the Warriors get two days off, and the whole circus starts up again when the Houston Rockets come to town to start a 7-game series. See you then.
An interesting subplot to the current NBA season has been how the various members of the old Chicago Bulls have reacted to the Warriors’ attempt to break their record. First Scottie Pippen came out and said that the 95-96 Bulls would sweep this Warriors team. Then Horace Grant doubled down on that by saying that any of the Bulls’ six championship teams would have swept the W’s. These kinds of statements are easy to make, of course, because they can never actually be disproven. The classier move would be to just shut up, but it’s all par for the course.
But now it’s come out that not only did Michael Jordan tell Draymond Green that the Warriors should go ahead and break the record, but that he, Jordan, would hold Draymond personally responsible if they didn’t. Now, is that some kind of tricky reverse psychology thing intended to mess with Draymond’s head? If not it’s a surprising turnaround from MJ, who’s always been nothing if not hypercompetitive, or to put it another way, dickish.
It’s been my official position that arguing the relative merits of the two teams is a waste of time, but if you wanted to have that conversation, I could go there. Give Jordan and co. credit: they certainly seem to have done more with less. I just looked at the 95-96 Bulls roster for the first time in a while, and it is surprisingly thin. After Jordan, Pippen, and Dennis Rodman, you get to people like Ron Harper (a savvy guard who was past his prime); Toni Kukoc (a gifted scorer but European and soft); Steve Kerr (great shooter but a liability on defense – sorry, Steve); and a rotating cast of centers led by Luc Longley, nobody’s idea of a dominating force in the middle.
The Bulls roster had room for people like Randy Brown (who?), Jason Caffey (a promising rookie who flamed out when he got traded to the Warriors – as, to be fair, everyone did in the 90s and 00s), Rodman babysitter Jack Haley, James Edwards, Dickie Simpkins, and worst of all, Jud Buechler, the living embodiment of the concept of “garbage time.” Most of those guys would get flat-out cut from the Warriors, and none of them would play, except maybe Caffey.
None of which is meant to belittle the Bulls’ accomplishment; it just makes it all the more remarkable. And most of it has to be chalked up to Jordan, who above and beyond his athletic ability, in those years just seemed to have the ability to bend reality to his will.
And at the moment, his will is that the W’s should go ahead and stomp the Grizzlies tomorrow. So take note, Day-Day, and don’t disappoint the man.