Round 4, Game 4: Warriors 108, Cavaliers 97

Sorry, Bron-Bron. Not this year.

It’s not time to pop the champagne quite yet.

But we’re about as close as you can get after the Warriors took Game 4 from the Cavaliers on their home court. And “took” is the right word; after looking lost and lackadaisical in Game 3, the W’s played with a sense of urgency that was heartening to behold. Even so they were down 5 points at the end of the first half, 6 at the beginning of the second after Kyrie Irving converted the free throw for a technical that had been called on Luke Walton.

At the end of the 1st Luke had protested, quite correctly, over an an atrocious non-call on Andre Iguodala’s buzzer-beating heave. J.R. Smith had slapped Iguodala all over the arms on the shot, and even raised his hand to claim the foul, but no call was made. This was part of a pattern of mystifying officiating throughout the game, and while I think it pretty much evened out in the end, it was painful to experience.

Fortunately, after Irving hit a jump shot for an 8-point lead, the Warriors decided it was time to bear down. Back-to-back 25-footers by Steph Curry and Klay Thompson made it a 2-point game, and you could sense the tide turning. The game was tied at 69 with 4:37 left after an Andre Iguodala three. (more…)

Round 4, Game 3: Cavaliers 120, Warriors 90

Klay Thompson grabs some floor time after suffering a thigh contusion. It was that kind of night.

What a difference three days make. Apparently the Cleveland Cavaliers took somewhat personally all the criticism, disparagement, and outright mockery they endured in the 72 hours between Games 2 and 3 of the NBA Finals. Last night they looked like a whole different team, scoring the first nine points of the game and building a 30–10 lead with 1:22 left in the first quarter. For the math-challenged, that’s a 20-point lead. In the first quarter.

The Warriors battled back and managed to get within 8 at the half, but in the third quarter the beatdown resumed. The final score ended up at 120–90, by which time we had long since abandoned our table at the Pearl Lounge in Eureka.

That amounts to a 63-point swing between Games 2 and 3. Were those really the same two teams out there? The Cavaliers looked more confident, more aggressive, and somehow larger than they had in the previous game. Their arms were longer, their rotations faster. It was their defense that won the game for them; they again bottled up Steph Curry, limiting him to 19 points on 6-for-13 shooting, and this time the Warriors’ bench did not come to the rescue. The Cavs’ offense was not bad either; they shot 52% from the field and 48% on threes.

So as a Warriors fan, what can I say? My team got their butts whipped. They seemed stunned by what the Cavs threw at them, and instead of the unbeatable superteam of Games 1 and 2, looked like regular human beings who sometimes get flustered and make mistakes. And instead of a brutal mismatch leading to the Warriors’ coronation as two-time champs, we have a series now.

The W’s are still in better shape than they were last year, when they were down 2–1 at this point. But last night’s debacle opens some questions that will need answering. Game 4 is tomorrow, and with any luck it will be the first actual competitive game of the Finals. Coach Kerr and his minions will earn their paychecks between now and then. I hope.

Round 4, Game 2: Warriors 110, Cavaliers 77

Go ahead and shout.

It’s tempting to gloat at a time like this, when My Golden State Warriors just beat the stuffing out of the Eastern Conference Champs in Game 2 of the Finals. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson once again underperformed (this time managing 18 and 17, respectively), and it did not matter in the least. After taking a while to get going, the Warriors took a 15-point lead in the 2nd quarter, which the Cavs cut to 8 at halftime. But in the 3rd quarter the W’s came out blazing; by the time it was over they were up 20, and things only got uglier from there.

The leading scorer for either team was Draymond Green with 28, and this is really not good news for Cleveland, who again could not take advantage of a subpar shooting night by the Splash Brothers. The Cavs turned the ball over, took bad shots, and had numerous defensive lapses that led to easy shots for the Dubs. By the middle of the 4th it was a 30-point game and I was waiting for the ref to stop things before someone got hurt.

Still and all, it’s just a 2–0 lead at this point. Now the series goes back to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4 and you have to hope, just for the sake of sheer human decency, that the Cavs muster some pride and show a little backbone. They should have no shortage of bulletin-board material with all the nasty stuff that was said about them after the game, and will continue to be said over the next couple days. Gloating would be premature, but one thing is just as true now as it was in November: The Warriors are the champs until someone takes it away from them.

Round 4, Game 1: Warriors 104, Cavaliers 89

I got this one.

“It was weird, but it was fun.”
– Stephen Curry

The Warriors’ slogan has been “Strength in Numbers” for a couple years now, and while that’s approaching the status of a cliche, there’s a lot of truth in it. Team beats individual every time. This effect was on full display in Game 1 of the Finals, when the Splash Brothers struggled all night, ending up 8-for-27 from the field for a combined 20 points. That was strange enough, but what was even stranger was that it did not matter at all. The rest of the team took up the slack and didn’t just eke out a win; they outplayed the Cavaliers in convincing fashion.

The W’s leading scorer was Shaun Livingston (20 pts, 8/10 FG, 0 turnovers), who had his midrange jumper in sizzling form. Leandro Barbosa, little used recently, tallied 11 in 11 minutes, repeatedly tormenting the tenacious but slow afoot Matthew Dellavedova. Draymond Green scored 16 and presumptive Finals MVP Andre Iguodala 12, and the whole team pitched in to play stellar defense. Even coach Steve Kerr got into the act, logging his third broken clipboard of the season to help the guys stay motivated in the second half.

This is only one game, obviously; things can change a lot over the course of a seven-game series. But it’s not a good sign for Cleveland that the Warriors’ best players had off nights and they still won easily. At one point late in the game ABC flashed a stat showing the W’s top 6 scorers of the night, and there was no one named Curry or Thompson among them. (In the end, Steph hit a late three to pass Andrew Bogut for the 6 spot.) We sat here somewhat flabbergasted on the living room couch, dodging the persistent summer sun that sometimes makes it hard to see what’s happening onscreen.

We’ll all suit up again for Game 2 on Sunday. Will the Splash Bros break the 20-point barrier this time? Um, take the over.

NBA Finals Predictions 2016

Why can't we just get along?

Game 1 of the NBA Finals will tip off in a couple hours, and not a moment too soon. In the absence of actual news, the internet spits out an endless stream of overanalysis, speculation, and outright blather. It was news today that Steph Curry uses Uber to get around town, apparently disappointing those hoping to see him float by on a magic carpet.

Which frankly, at this point, would not surprise me that much.

In the meantime, here are a few predictions about the series, none of them of any significance whatsoever.

  • Kevin Love will wear a cup.
  • The two teams will obliterate the previous Finals record for threes attempted and made. Both of them love to launch up long-distance shots, with the Cavs owning the current record for the most made in a game at 25. Klay Thompson just set the individual record with 11, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that record doesn’t survive the series. It wouldn’t surprise me if Steph hit 12 in a game, then Klay hit 13. Being a fan of this team has inflicted serious damage on my ability to be surprised.
  • Draymond Green will get a technical foul in Game 1, bringing him right to the brink of a suspension. In subsequent games, anytime he starts to approach a referee, one of his teammates will kick him in the crotch. For the good of the team.
  • LeBron will be unhappy with a call and stare down the ref with that “Don’t you know who I am?” look.
  • If the Warriors lose, a gloating Charles Barkley will explain how it was inevitable. If they win, he will find some reason to undermine the legitimacy of their accomplishment. Because that’s how the Chuckles do.

And that’s probably enough for now…my battery is low and there are chores to do before gametime. How crazy is it that the W’s are in the Finals for the second straight year? It used to be a pipe dream that they would ever play games in June, and here we are. Indeed do many things come to pass.