Warriors

It’s time to accept the truth about the Golden State Warriors

Ever since the Warriors begun blitzing the entire NBA on their way to a 73-win season and two championships in the span of three years, it seems as if we’ve been eager to pounce on any opportunity that emerges to christen a team as the one that can finally dispatch of Golden State.

On Monday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, Golden State went on the road and snagged a 119-106 statement victory over the Houston Rockets, the latest team fans have invested belief in as the squad that can, at last, slay the juggernaut Warriors.

Golden State was powered by Kevin Durant, who finished with 37 points on 14-27 shooting, and his efforts were backed by a strong shooting performance from Klay Thompson, who connected on six triples and scored 28 points.

Durant proved to be indefensible in Game 1, abusing Houston’s defender’s either straight up or on switches with an array of fadeaway’s, flip shots and other smooth maneuvers from two-point territory. Look at him take Chris Paul with the shot-clock draining. Smooth, fluid and as my brother Martin Soaries likes to say: stupid.

But when KD decided he wanted to test the waters from three-point land, he proved it was his night to command the offensive seas for his club.

All season and postseason long we’ve heard the banter about how the Rockets are equipped to beat the Warriors. Some of the talk has been Houston championing themselves (I’m looking at you Clint Capela), but there has been a belief from a number of corners that the Rockets can prevent the Warriors from marching to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals.

It’s quite possible that Houston reconfigures, snatches Game 2 and make this a series, but I think most recognize that to be unlikely after what was displayed in Game 1. 

Here’s my thing: I don’t think many people have truly believed that any team in the NBA today could down the Dubs. The idea was birthed more out of a hope that the Bay Area Basketball Empire would finally tumble. 

Last season it was the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were headed by LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Fans had good reason to suspect that James, Irving, and Co. could dethrone the Warriors, because:

  1. They had LeBron James
  2. The Cavaliers had just conquered the Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals with a remarkable 3-1 comeback, the first ever in Finals history.

Except this version of Cavs/Warriors featured Durant, who went averaged 35.2 points per game en-route to Finals MVP and he also left us with a defining career moment with a dagger over LeBron James in Game 3. 

At the beginning of this season, it was the Oklahoma City Thunder, who many believed with Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony would solidify themselves as contenders in the Western Conference and become an admirable foe for the Warriors. 

Two regular-season rompings (a 108-91 victory in Oklahoma City during Nov. and a 125-105 win in Golden State during Feb.) lent credence to that notion, but the Thunder saw their season end in a first-round flameout against the Utah Jazz, left to an offseason of wonder in the Paul George free agency limbo. 

In the second round of this postseason, we heard the chatter of how the New Orleans Pelicans could spook the Warriors thanks to Anthony Davis and their rugged backcourt of Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday. That theory wasn’t long-lasting. 

Aside from New Orleans’ blowout win in Game 3, the Warriors had the Pelicans looking like Pigeons for most of the series. Golden State took care of them in a forgettable five-game series, closing the book on a campaign in which the Pelicans overachieved, especially considering the devastating Achilles injury DeMarcus Cousins sustained in late January. 

James Harden, Chris Paul, and the Rockets are the newest basketball troupe fans have given “they can defeat the Warriors in a seven-game series,” consideration to, but if Game 1 of the WCF was any indication, that’s just another falsehood cooked up by the masses as they hope for a misstep from the Warriors.

Harden was spectacular on the offensive end with 41 points (14-24 FG) and seven assists, while his backcourt mate Paul issued a solid 23-point and 11-rebound performance, though his stat line was beefed up by some garbage time buckets when the game was out of reach. 

While Harden and to a lesser extent Paul, feasted, Golden State found success by neutralizing the Rockets’ supplementary pieces. Trevor Ariza (killed by foul trouble), PJ Tucker, Luc Mbah a Moute, Gerald Green and Ryan Anderson were a combined 5-23 from the floor, while Eric Gordon awoke from the stupor he’s been in for majority of the postseason to pour in 15 points and five rebounds, a contribution the Rockets were starved for as their wings missed shots all night long. 

Warriors

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s one major takeaway from Game 1 vs. the Rockets, it’s this: no team currently constructed can take four out of seven from the Warriors in a playoff series. They’re exhausting. They overwhelm. They require a level of on-court and intellectual acuity that most teams cannot maintain over the course of an entire game, nevermind a playoff series. 

Golden State is just too much in every capacity. Too much talent, shotmaking, understanding, poise, patience, and trust. If the MonStars from Space Jam were a real-life entity, I’m almost positive they’d take the form of the Golden State Warriors. Shoot, even the MonStars might be an underdog in a series with the Warriors. 

In a game where two-time MVP Stephen Curry was solid all-around (but honestly pedestrian by his standards), Golden State still found a way to come out on top, thanks to the flamethrowing of Durant, who was 10-13 in isolation situations.

Curry finished with 18 points, eight assists, six rebounds and two steals, but wasn’t his usual incendiary self from downtown, knocking down only one three-pointer. 

Curry’s still working his way back from an MCL injury that kept him on the mend for 15 games, and it’s obvious through the absence of the bravado that makes his game so entertaining to watch. 

During one part of the game, Curry sat on the bench with an indifferent look on his face. Head coach Steve Kerr tried to pick his star point guard up with some words of encouragement, promising Curry that a “breakthrough” was soon to come. Not only does Curry know this, but I think the entire basketball world does as well. We’re just waiting for the moment it happens. 

Despite only having lost two playoff games in their run thus far, Durant thinks the Warriors can be better, which is spooky for the Rockets and whoever makes it out of the Eastern Conference between the Boston Celtics and Cavaliers. 

The last time we saw a team with the dynastic qualities of Golden State were the early 2000’s Los Angeles Lakers, who claimed three championships in a row on the backs of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

Curry, Durant and the crew don’t seem likely to disband over egotistical friction, making this empire one that’s likely to endure. 

Watching the Warriors is like Grand Theft Auto V with the cheat codes activated. It’s a joy to watch, but even better to play, running roughshod over Los Santos with the finest artillery, except Golden State’s comes in the form of Curry, Durant, Thompson and Draymond Green. 

Just like the Los Angeles Lakers and Celtics teams of the 1980’s, or the Chicago Bulls of the 1990’s, Golden State is here to secure sustained dominance and go down as one of the greatest basketball sovereignties of all-time. The crazy thing is, they may very well be considered the best when it’s all said and done. Restoration of the NBA’s competitive balance will have to wait until the Warriors are done making the Association their championship playground. 

 

 

 

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