Up to this point I haven’t written a single word on this site about the 2019 NBA playoffs, which says something about how jaded we Warriors fans have become. Our team is now an established power that has gone to the Finals four times in a row and won thrice, no longer the young upstarts who took the league by storm in 2014–15. And there’s no getting around the fact that we are not the giddy virgins we were back then.
But last night’s victory was especially sweet, coming as it did with the W’s short a Kevin Durant (out with a calf strain) and facing a Rockets team whose sole purpose in life is to beat them. That last part is no exaggeration — Houston GM Daryl Morey has gone on record more than once saying that his team was built specifically to match up against the Warriors. And last year they almost pulled it off: If Chris Paul hadn’t missed the last two games with a hamstring pull, or if the Rockets hadn’t suffered a historic cold stretch where they missed 27 straight three-pointers, they might be the defending champions right now.
Might be. Hypotheticals are just that, and you never know what’s going to happen until the ball is tipped and the game is played. After Durant’s injury the buzz was that the Warriors were in trouble, even though they had pulled out Game 5 of their Conference Semis series to take a 3–2 lead. I personally was pretty sanguine about it; with Durant out and Andrew Bogut starting, this was the same lineup that won the title four years ago.
That doesn’t mean I wasn’t jittery as gametime started. My official position is that, should something derail the W’s shot at a threepeat this year, I won’t complain; our cup already runneths over, and so on and so forth. But I didn’t want it to be at the hands of the Rockets and their cast of whiny crybabies, including CP3 and of course James Harden, who in addition to becoming the league’s top scorer has honed his villain game to Kobe Bryant levels.
And what a weird, wild ride it was. The Warriors survived a first half in which Stephen Curry was scoreless, tying the game at 57 thanks to 19 points from Klay Thompson and timely contributions from (Playoff) Andre Iguodala and a rotating cast of bench players who had been all bench and no play through the first two rounds.
Then in the second half the Human Torch showed up. Steph dropped 33 cold-blooded points with extreme prejudice, sending the Rockets quietly off to Cabo San Lucas and another offseason of brooding on why God hates them so. But it was Klay who put the exclamation point on it, burying a 3-pointer off some sweet ball movement to seal the deal:
After the game he had this to say:
You have to love him. Word is that after hitting the shot Klay looked straight at Warriors owner Joe Lacob, who is on the hook to offer him a big contract this offseason. Pay the man, Joe.