I haven’t written a word about the NBA playoffs so far this year, for a couple of reasons. One is sheer laziness. Another is that when I went back and reread posts from previous seasons, some of them struck me as rather tedious. And if I think they’re tedious they must be, because I’m quite vain about my writing.

But then sometimes it’s really less about the reading than the writing. Keeping the old instrument tuned and so forth. So let’s do this.

Later today Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets will tip off. It’s been a weird year for Dub Nation; after last season’s 16–1 romp through the playoffs, a certain malaise seemed to settle over the team and its fans. It was hard for all of us to get up for each and every game like we used to; three straight seasons extending all the way into June had taken their toll.

But we are all veterans now. We have some idea of how to measure out our energy, how to take the long view. Unlike two seasons ago, where the Warriors seemed to deplete themselves by chasing a record 73-win regular season, this year they emphasized rest down the stretch. (In some cases they had no choice, with a rash of injuries afflicting all the key players, especially Steph Curry.) As a result they ended up surrendering the #1 seed in the West to the upstart Houston Rockets, who played with tremendous swagger all season.

And so, after dispatching the Spurs and the Pelicans in five games each, the Warriors will begin a playoff series on the road for the first time in four years. They have a lot of confidence in themselves, but so do the Rockets; and Las Vegas in its infinite wisdom has seen fit to make the W’s underdogs for the first time in recent memory.

So the stage is set for an epic battle. Let the games begin.