Tag Archives: Dubs

The Hate is Delicious for the DubNation

It’s like a fine whine. Yes, whine. The hate for the Golden State Warriors is nearing crescendo heights and the season hasn’t even started yet.

Basketball fans are criticizing the Dubs for their “so-called” team building. Ruining the game, they say. Tilting the competitive balance, they say. Blah blah blah……All criticisms from people whose teams were not smart enough to draft correctly, build their organizations correctly and now want to discredit a team that is coming off of a titanic let-down in the NBA Finals.

A basketball nation rejoiced when the 73-9 Warriors were tripped up in the NBA Finals after holding a commanding 3-games-to-1 lead on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron got his ring for the land and those dastardly Warriors with their band-wagon fans (I would agree, some are on the wagon).

They hate because the narrative now is that somehow the Warriors have built this illicit structure of greatness differently or unlike other great teams have been built. NOT TRUE !

Six other teams could have drafted Steph Curry but they bought into the notion he was too small and not good enough. Ten other teams could have drafted Klay Thompson but they bought into the notion he was simply a one-dimensional spot-up jump shooter. And, EVERY single team in the Association could have had Draymond Green believing he was too small to be a four, and not versatile or athletic enough to be a three. Well, shame on you and your LOGO-less front office.

Now that Kevin Durant has utilized his God-given and collective bargaining given right to jump to the team of his choice during free agency, teams, pontificators and fans are furious that somehow the Warriors are not playing fair and it’s not good for the game. My contention is that having super teams is fantastic for the game. When the Lakers and Celtics were dominant in the 80’s everyone watched because everyone wanted to see them get beat. I didn’t see the Rockets, Mavericks, 76ers, Bucks or Pistons shy away from the challenge of knocking off these storied franchises. I didn’t see their fan bases whining about how good the Lakers and Celtics were. Those teams and fan bases went out to try and beat them. To compete.

I will say this now and I will say it again. After spending  35-to-40 years loving the Warriors and watching them be the laughing-stock of basketball. A joke, a punch-line. I don’t feel I have to apologize for anything. The Warriors are good. The Warriors are damn good. If they could go on an epic run of championships, I will bask in the glow of happiness. I have been conditioned to know that titles are not a team’s right. I learned that in 1976 after the 60-win Warriors were upended in the West Finals and sent this 5-year old into a miserable two-day crying fit. I will relish each and every moment of this great run.

I will be embracing the hate. The Warriors should never apologize for being great.

Let the games begin

Embrace the hate DubNation

The vitriol is palpable. The criticisms are many and the jealousy runs deep. Mega-star Kevin Durant will be signing with the Golden State Warriors on Thursday throwing the Association into a tizzy. And, while analysts, players and executives are aghast at the power move by Durant, the DubNation rejoices in their good fortune.

Here’s the brass tax: Bring the hate. Long-standing Warrior fans know what the alternative is. We had to live in the trash bin of the NBA for roughly 35 of the last 40 years, so if you want to hate the Warriors for their embarrassment of riches, so be it.

Don’t act like you wouldn’t be relishing the Durant signing for your favorite squad. People acting is if this move is unprecedented is laughable. While Dennis Rodman is not even in the same class as Durant, the great Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen put on a full court press to their nemesis after gagging against Orlando in 1996. The result was a three-headed monster that rolled to three straight titles.

Boston Celtics great Paul Pierce tweeted out yesterday, “If you can’t beat em’ join em.” Well, Pierce and his Celtics were the recipients of team building when Danny Ainge acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen helping Beantown capture their 17th world championship. Lest we forget the “team building” that took place in Miami in 2010 when LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh all signed on the dotted line to build an NBA powerhouse in 2010. Durant’s move is not unprecedented, it’s the norm. It just so happens that it is happening to my team.

Naysayers and detractors will lament the move saying its bad for the game, it’s wrong, and that they won’t watch. Good for you. Throw your fit, make your stand. Those of us in the DubNation could care less. The basketball world will still watch. They will tune in like they did to those hated Pistons teams in the late 80’s and cheer for them to lose. They will tune in like those machine-like Lakers teams with Kobe-Shaq just to see the show. They will tune in to hate, just like they did with those LeBron led Heat teams.

Hating the Golden State Warriors will turn into a cottage industry. Hating them will be universal. Hating them will be empirical. Hating the Dubs will be cool. Go ahead do it. Please hate the Warriors, revel in their losses. We don’t mind because the alternative is being irrelevant (See: Sacramento Kings in the dictionary.)

The Warriors were a pimple on the buttocks of the NBA from 1976-1987 and from 1993-2007 after the Chris Webber fiasco. Life-long Warrior fans have paid the price, we now get to bask in the glow of magnificence. Your hate can not dampen our shine.

So, I urge you to keep hating the Dubs. We love it. We embrace the hate.

 

Warriors lose and I’m NOT WORRIED……

The Golden State Warriors loss in Game 1 of their Western Conference Final series versus Oklahoma City is not surprising considering how poorly the Dubs played.

I give all the credit in the world to the Thunder. They kept grinding it out and waited for their opening, sadly for Dubs fans the Warriors gave OKC numerous openings. Poor shot selection and quick shots while leading by double digits was the death-knell. Carelessness with the ball was clearly the Dubs un-doing and chances to add-on turned into buckets in transition for the Thunder.

Steven Adams was tremendous registering a double-double as the Thunder stayed with what they do well and that is go big. Russell Westbrook shook off a 1-for-10 to score 19 points in the 3rd quarter and finish with 27.

The Warriors clearly had trouble with Westbrook’s dribble attacks. His aggressiveness in the 3rd quarter was a tone-setter. It was something the Warriors could stymie during the regular season, they will have to get back to those defensive principles in Game 2 and beyond. Saying they need to defend Westbrook better is easy,  how do you do it ? Not easy. Dubs will need to throw multiple bodies at him and try to guard him with length. Iguodala is the natural choice but he needs to be on Durant. Thompson is probably where the Dubs need to go and hope he can slow him down.

We are already hearing the Warriors talk about how they played the Thunder’s game in Game one. Shaun Livingston, “I think we played their game tonight instead of them playing our game.” Andre Iguodala saw problems with the Warriors pace, “we gotta find our pace at a more consistent level.”

Notice, nary a word about missing so many shots or taking so many rushed shots.

Contrary to what the national media and the Dubs haters will want you to believe, the outcome was only slightly because of things the Thunder did.  Let’s be intellectually honest here, the Warriors were pretty bad. The ball didn’t move. Isolation dribble drives were preferred over pick-and-rolls and ball movement. If OKC is going to insist on playing big the Warriors need to make them pay with ball movement and pick-and-rolls causing mis-matches. They did that tonight on occasion but not nearly enough. When Kerr, Walton and company look at the game film it will become clear.

I am not very concerned. Am I in denial ? Maybe. I just don’t see it. As good as KD and Westbrook are I don’t see the liabilities that Kanter and Waiters are defensively being able to get the Thunder over the top. The haters are hoping that THIS is the Warriors team that shows up the rest of the series. I regret to inform them that this is the worst game the Warriors will play in this series.

The Warriors will win this series. The only question is will it last 5 or 6 games.

Warriors on a Seek and Destroy Mission

The ammunition was provided and the Golden State Warriors have spent the first five weeks of the season emptying the chambers.  With 18 straight wins the Dubs as they are affectionately known by their loyalists are the toasts of the Association.

Cartridges of ammo were provided by Doc Rivers and the Clippers who “inferred” the Warriors were lucky on their road to an NBA title. While there didn’t appear to be any malicious venom behind Doc’s comments, the Warriors have used those words to fuel their record setting 18-0 run.

James Harden “inferred” that he was the true MVP of the league. So far this season has been a colossal disaster for Harden and his Houston Rockets mates.

The Cleveland Cavaliers incessantly stated that THEY would be NBA Champions if they didn’t suffer debilitating injuries to both Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving during last year’s playoff run.

Its been a whole lotta woulda, coulda, shoulda for teams not named the Dubs.

I believe every single team in every single team sport has to have a fair amount of luck on their road to a championship. Every team needs to have “some” luck to stay healthy. In my mind it’s a given. It’s not something that teams, coaches or players should dwell on. It just makes you seem bitter. Whether Rivers meant to poke the hornet’s nest or not, it served it’s purpose for the Warriors. The Dubs felt slighted. In their world, champions should be respected whether you like them or not. If you don’t respect what we did, to hell with you. They have unleashed a fury on the rest of the league that has seen them win 18 straight games by an average of nearly 15 points a game.

While the Warriors embraced the chase toward the streak, they need to be careful to not lose sight of what the true goal of this 2015-2016 campaign is. The streak is nice but championships are eternal. The Dubs are not only chasing their place in history but they also fight the label of being a “one hit wonder.” Never more in recent history has an NBA champion received so much derisive criticism over their excellence.

As the NBA is learning, criticize at your own peril. The Warriors seem to be on a mission to shut-up the nay-sayers and embarrass the doubters.

NBA FINALS: Cavaliers grab 2-1 series lead as listless Warriors cede control

 

At the outset of the series I wrote that the team that was more mentally tough would win the series. So far the Cleveland Cavaliers have shown the Golden State Warriors how a championship team should compete for basketball’s biggest prize.

The media experts will try to convince you that there is some strategic genius to what the Cavaliers are doing, there really isn’t. They are winning this 2015 NBA Finals with guts and guile. A willingness to play as hard as they possibly can and leaving the rest for the weary. Matthew Dellavedova epitomizes the grit of this team. He is out-manned and out-gunned at every turn yet his hustle and determination wins him possessions and helped the Cavaliers grab control of the series

LeBron James was super again with 40 points 12 rebounds and 8 assists, but Dellavedova’s 20 points gave the Cavaliers that second option to give them a 2-games-to-1 lead.

What has to be infuriating for Warriors head coach Steve Kerr is it appears the Warriors aren’t exerting the same effort as Cleveland. Kerr wasn’t about to bury his team in the post-game, instead he simply praised their effort in the 4th quarter. We all know how he felt about their effort through the first three-quarters. Despite only losing the game 96-91, the Dubs trailed by 20 late in the third quarter and simply dug to big of a hole. Kerr said he didn’t like how his team began to feel sorry for themselves in the waning moments of the 3rd.

Tell me about it Coach……

Steph Curry even intimated that the Warriors are not coming out with enough energy at the starts of these games. How does that even happen ? How do you play nine months of basketball at the highest level in the world. You are suddenly playing for the sports biggest prize and you aren’t playing with enough energy, not playing hard, getting out-worked and out-hustled by a team with inferior talent. I can not begin to comprehend how that is even possible.

Kobe Bryant had this amazing tweet in the aftermath of the Game 3 carnage for the Warriors tonight……

‏@kobebryant
Cavs playing as if their life is on the line G.S playing as if they have more #NBAFinals down the line #ThisIsNOW #competitionIsEverything

Nuff said.

The Warriors scored 35 points combined in the second and third quarters. They scored 36 alone in the 4th quarter when they played with a sense of frenetic energy and pace. Unless this team is prepared to expend that 4th quarter like energy then they will be in trouble in Game 4.

Draymond Green is nursing a sore back after a hard fall in the 4th quarter of Game 2. He certainly didn’t look like himself in Game 3 and that is bad news for Golden State. The Warriors have relied on his stretch-4 abilities all year to make shots, board and make decisions off of the Curry double-team. David Lee filled in admirably and gave the Dubs a shot in the arm with some spirited 4th quarter play. He is sure to get more minutes in Game 4.

Harrison Barnes was beyond awful. He missed wide open jumpers off of creative dribble attacks by his mates. He even missed a bunny lay-up with no one near him. Barnes must be better.

Andrew Bogut is getting dominated by Timofey Mozgov. At the start of the series I thought the combination of Bogut and Festus Ezeli could play that to a draw at least. Bogut looks worn down and slow and Ezeli has great energy but sometimes his decision-making on the offensive and defensive ends is lacking.

The Warriors bench is playing well but with such sub-par performances by starters Green, Barnes and Bogut the Warriors are in deep.

The troubling aspects of this series so far from the Warriors perspective have nothing to do with X’s and O’s. It has everything to do with the Warriors heart, guts, energy, will-to-win and belief. If they don’t find it, and find it soon they will be on the losing end of one of the great upsets in sports history.

Game 4 is Thursday in Cleveland

NBA FINALS GAME 2 Post-Script: Simple Adjustment Will Change Series for Dubs

 

Furrowed brows and consternation will turn to joy and happiness after Steve Kerr and staff have a chance to survey the damage of the first two games of the NBA Finals.

First and foremost all the credit in the world needs to go to David Blatt and his staff for devising a game plan that has taken Steph Curry out of his comfort zone. As I wrote before the series started, the only way Cleveland can win this series is to make the game ugly and slow. They have done a masterful job of disrupting the Warriors rhythm by mucking the game up. Here is how they are doing it…..

Cleveland is suffocating Curry once he gets past the time line. This isn’t a soft double-team or a funnel to help side defense. This is a furious trap after the predictable high screen. Once they trap, they are being physical with Steph, pushing him to the sidelines. Steph is not handling this trap well because to be honest, no team has done it better this season than the Cavaliers against the Warriors. If Steph tries to dribble out of it there are three defenders there. The goal is simple, “get the ball out of Curry’s hands and make the other guys beat you.” Curry has been inconsistent in getting the ball to his other play-makers and this has hurt the overall continuity of the offense.

Curry needs to attack and be more decisive in getting rid of the ball after the high screen. Usually the screener is Draymond Green. Green has not handled this situation well at all. His hesitancy on whether to shoot or attack the lane exemplifies that dis-jointedness of the Warriors offense. Draymond is wide open…….WIDE OPEN. He never hesitated during the regular season. He can’t hesitate now. If the Cavaliers are going to trap as hard as they are, you need to confidently knock down the jumper if you are open, or attack the lane. Once you drive the ball to the middle, Cleveland has to help and when that help comes he can become the play-maker he has been all year. Dish it to Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes for the corner three or lob it to Andrew Bogut. What Green can’t do is hold the ball and try to figure it out. Cleveland is willing to give open looks to complementary pieces, the Dubs need to knock them down like they have all year. If the Warriors act decisively and swiftly off the high ball screen, they will have open shots.  Cleveland’s defense  will be jumping all over the place. Good ball movement will beat good defense every time. But, when you move the ball you must knock down the open shot.

I think Cleveland has played wonderfully in this series. The first two games have gone exactly according to plan for them. I could care less about all the missed shots for LeBron James. He is all the Cavaliers really have offensively. James had 11 assists in Game 2. The Cavaliers had 14 TOTAL assists. He is the best player in the world and is playing like it. The post presence of Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson is problematic for the Warriors but certainly not something that is their death-knell. When the Dubs go small the Cavaliers can only stay big for so long before good ball movement will negate the size advantage and Blatt and staff will have to match the Warriors smaller line-up.

Cleveland can win this series if they continue to muck up the game. James continues being James. And if Matthew Dellavedova continues perpetrating his hex upon Steph Curry.  I think it’s really simple. Cleveland is riding their super-star and the supporting cast is following his lead.

The Warriors win this series if they revert back to the ball movement that made them an 80-18 team entering these NBA Finals. Make Cleveland pay for the aggressive double-and-triple teams. Attack the lane, make Cleveland commit and move the ball. Remember, the Warriors had similar issues with Memphis but when they figured it out, it was game over. I fully expect film session to be valuable in righting the ship. I also expect David Lee to make appearance. Two of his better games over the last two years have been against Miami last year and Cleveland this year. Lee might be rusty but I think he can help if the offense becomes bogged down.

The Warriors have the best road record in the NBA at 33-15 including the playoffs. This series is not about James and his greatness. This series is about whether the Warriors are truly a championship team and are willing to make the adjustments that will lead to a title.

NBA FINALS GAME 2 PREVIEW: Irving out for Finals; LeBron presented with rare opportunity

 

If you are to believe the national media the 2015 NBA Finals are now over and there is really no need to play the remainder of the series……how disappointing.

Despite the clear advantage the Warriors have with the season ending injury to Kyrie Irving, this series is far from over. The last I checked a bad dude by the name of LeBron James is still healthy and still plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The moment, the circumstance the scene was made for this guy and now he will have something he has never had to play with before…….the expectation of NOT winning.

No one expects Cleveland to win. No one. Not a soul in their right mind thinks the Cavaliers minus Irving, Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao can win. But, there is one bad dude who will see this as the opportunity of a lifetime. Even people who don’t normally cheer for LeBron will now give him the benefit of the doubt with his decimated club lying in tatters around him.  If James can somehow pull this off I believe it would be one of the great sports feats in the history of team sport.

The national media was really pouring it on today. From ESPN to the NBA Sirius/XM channel to Mad Dog Radio. Not one host was giving the Cavaliers a shot to win the series. In fact they were declaring if Cleveland got this thing to six games it would be a minor miracle.

I’m not buying it.

I love sports because of the unpredictability. No one knows what will happen. That is why we love it. Did any of us see the Seahawks throwing the ball from the one-yard line in the Super Bowl on 1st down? Did anyone see the San Francisco Giants win six elimination games on their way to the 2012 World Series? Did anyone see a band of bandits run through the ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament against bigger and badder teams in 1983 and win the national tournament like Jim Valvano’s NC State Wolfpack?

Sports is not scripted. We don’t know how it will turn out. We have a feeling. We think we know. On paper it says the game should turn out a certain way. But, we watch because sometimes we are shocked and stunned by the result.

If LeBron can do this, we should start etching that profile into the Mount Rushmore of all-time greats. If he can do this it would be one of the great feats in the history of sport. For the first time in his athletic life, LeBron James is being given no chance. The Warriors better take notice. They do not need to become the Baltimore Orioles of 1969 or the Washington Bullets of 1975. The Dubs have come too far over the last 40 years for this 80-18 team to become a footnote in basketball lore.

FINISH THEM……..

NBA FINALS PREVIEW: Mental Toughness will win Championship

It’s hard to define mental toughness, but as sports fans, we know it when we see it. It’s that undying will of not being denied. Even though sometimes you are denied it is the unfailing desire to not only compete but win. The basketball team that shows the greatest amount of mental toughness will be the team that wins the 2015 NBA Championship.

The reason I believe mental toughness will be the key is that the only way the Cleveland Cavaliers can win this series is to muck it up and make it ugly. They know they can’t run with Golden State. But if they make the game a plodding half-court physical affair, they will be in the driver’s seat.

Everyone under the sun is asking the question, “how do the Warriors stop LeBron James?” My answer is they don’t. LeBron will do what he does and that is at times dominate the game the way the only the greatest of the great can do. He will not only dazzle with his ability to score, but his uncanny ability to get his mates involved and have them play at levels they didn’t even know they had.  It’s what makes him spectacular and special. The Warriors will not stop James. They will try Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala on him and it won’t work. The best they can hope for is he doesn’t get these vital players for the Dubs into too much foul trouble.

The given is that the Warriors can’t stop LeBron, but they must be able to stop JR Smith and Iman Shumpert. These two New York Knickerbocker cast-offs have been born-again in Cleveland. When LeBron’s creativity is on full display these are the two most likely candidates to deliver daggers. The Warriors team defense has been superb this year and their ability to defend and rotate off of doubles has been flawless at times. It will need to be special again with Smith and Shumpert playing at such a high level.

The Cavaliers cause a match-up issue with the emergence of Tristan Thompson. His Rodman-esque post-season has punctuated a great season for this free-agent to be. Thompson has no offensive game, but his relentless rebounding abilities makes this difficult for the Warriors to contend with in the half-court.

Matthew Dellavedova has been a revelation. His toughness brings an edge to the Cavaliers that has served them well. Can his toughness overcome his short-comings when facing superior athletes. So far it has, the question is whether the St. Mary’s product can shade and handle Steph Curry. I just don’t see it.

The Cavaliers are truly a team that is greater than the sum of its parts. Many are pointing to their 12-2 run through the Eastern Conference playoffs. Some are dis-counting that run because of the perceived weakness in the East. Well, let me break something to you, it’s not a perception. The East is very weak. I don’t put much credence into their playoff trek.

When looking at the Warriors its pretty darn simple. They are the most offensive and defensive efficient team in the league. National media point out the Splash Brothers and their high-flying style. But, those of us that watched this team all year knows they can win a grind it out 85-80 game just as well as a 126-121 game. The Warriors play small, but they can play big. They play fast, but they can play slow. Their defense is always over-looked. They have tremendous individual and team defenders in Klay Thompson, Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. The Warriors are not only athletic but they are long. This length I believe will be a huge factor in the series. Instead of a 6’2 guard challenging Smith’s perimeter jumpers, you will have a 6’7 Livingston or Iguodala. This will be a factor in the series.

Steve Kerr will need to be on his “A” game  if the Warriors are to win this series. He will need to make adjustments. When to double and not double LeBron James is one of them. How to match-up the small line-up with Timofey Mozgov and Thompson is another. I see the Warriors having to counter the two Cavaliers bigs. Decisions here could very well determine the series.

As much as the Warriors don’t have any answers for LeBron, Cleveland has a major challenge in defending Steph Curry, or shall I say hiding Kyrie Irving. The Cavs could put Iman Shumpert on Curry and see if Irving can defend Klay Thompson, but that could be fatal. They could “see” if Irving can defend Curry, but I don’t think that will go well at all. They could see if JR Smith could defend Thompson in the Shumpert on Steph scenario but then you have Irving on Barnes. No answers for Cleveland. However you slice it, the talented but injured and defensively challenged Irving has to try to stop someone. I can see the Warriors feeding where-ever this mis-match is. Also, the Cavaliers will have to double Curry, when they double can their rotations be good enough to prevent the wide open looks the Warriors will get ? Can the Dubs knock them down ? While the Warriors dilemma is focused on LeBron, the Cavaliers have a multi-faceted defensive problem when trying to handle the Warriors. And, with the Warriors depth I believe the challenge will be too great, even with the magnificent LeBron James.

Back to mental toughness. There will come times in this series when the Warriors will have to dig down deep and stay composed. This is the biggest wildcard in the series. James is going to have his guys jump on his back because this isn’t his first rodeo. How will the Warriors respond to the first hard foul or the first shot at Curry or Thompson. This is the Finals. There will be no lay-ups without a challenge. The Warriors must not lose their heads. Yes, I am speaking to you Draymond Green. Green must keep his wits about him and stay on the floor. I fully expect the Cavaliers to take some cheapies on the Warriors when that running game gets going. The Warriors can not take a swing or respond in kind. They need to stay what I like to call, “aggressively composed.” Aggressive in mind-set but composed in performance. That is mental toughness. The Bad Boy Pistons of the 90’s relied on teams losing their wits when the game got physical. The Warriors have really yet to face a team that went after them and tried to beat them up. How they handle that will determine the series winner.

Cavalier fans have waited a lifetime. Warriors fans have waited 40 years. The time is here. The 2015 NBA FINALS.

MY PREDICTION: The Warriors have gone 79-19 this year when you include the regular season and post-season. They have gone an amazing 46-3 at home and an NBA best 33-15 on the road. I have watched them play all year-long. I just can’t see a team beating them 4-out-7. If LeBron can lead his team to a title this year against this Warriors team I think it will be his greatest professional achievement.

WARRIORS IN 6

 

 

Will Warriors fans regret pulling for Houston Rockets ?

 

Something happened as I was writing my Warriors preview for the Western Conference Finals versus the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers suffered one of the more epic hiccups in the history of NBA post-season basketball. The result is a match-up with the Houston Rockets for the right to play for the NBA title in two weeks.

This is a match-up that many Dubs fans were secretly hoping for. While the Warriors/Clippers match-up would have been more entertaining, I am not looking for entertaining. I want the Warriors to win. Their best chance for winning the West and advancing to the Finals is to play the Houston Rockets. Personnel wise the Warriors had several advantages, but the one player they didn’t have an answer for was Blake Griffin, and that would have been a serious problem. I still thought the Warriors would have beaten the Clippers, but the task would have been more difficult. It would have been a long and arduous series that could have hinged on just a few plays. In my mind too close for comfort, so I was pulling for Houston.

This sounds like I am denigrating the Houston Rockets and what they accomplished and that is not entirely true. But, I have considered Houston soft all season long. Not hotel mattress soft, we are talking Charmin toilet paper soft. Squeezably soft. That changed with the Rockets riveting Game 6 comeback last Thursday night when they came back from 19 down in the late 3rd quarter to beat the Clippers and send their series to a Game 7. Without James Harden on the floor the Rockets outscored Los Angeles 49-18 over the final 14 minutes to rescue their season. You learn a lot about a team when the ship is sinking and I learned the Rockets are not “squeezably soft.”  I saw their toughness on full display.

So now we have a match-up of the two top teams in terms of seeding in the Western Conference. We have two teams that had the top two candidates for the Most Valuable Player award with Warriors point guard Steph Curry easily out-distancing James Harden for the hardware. Houston feels their man was slighted, Harden told the media after their Game 7 win on Sunday that he has felt over-looked all season. It’s an intriguing match-up on so many levels.

Both teams like to shoot the three and both teams like an up-tempo pace. This should entertain the nation watching two teams that get up and down and are adept on the offensive end. The big difference between the two squads is on the defensive end. The Rockets play good defense is stretches, but if you really watch them they allow way too many blow-bys. The Rockets back-side rotations are not consistent. That lack of defensive predictability makes it hard to depend on them. They rely too much on having Dwight Howard behind them to clean up their messes, and unlike his years as Orlando’s center, he is not the same rotating defender. Howard does change shots. He also blocks his share, but his apathy and his unwillingness to “consistently” help his mates hurts this team. I would argue Howard is a good defensive player, but he could be so much better.

Statistically the Warriors are the best defensive teams in the league. They hold opponents to the lowest field goal percentage in the Association and it’s probably the biggest reason why they won 67 games. Their defense is also the biggest reason the Dubs ousted Memphis in the semi-finals, especially after falling behind 2 games-to-1. The Warriors commitment to defense was nurtured by former coach Mark Jackson and has now been developed and fully implemented by current head coach Steve Kerr.

Many Warriors fans are citing the Dubs season series sweep as the reason why they think Golden State will roll the Rockets. While those games give us insight into the match-up, they are also a bit deceiving. Terrence Jones and Corey Brewer did not play in any of the four-losses the Rockets had against the Warriors. Right now those two are pivotal pieces off of the Rockets bench. Josh Smith only played in one game for the Rockets against the Warriors because he was only released by the Pistons in January. Dwight Howard missed two of the games against Golden State because of his knee issues, which the Rockets smartly made him rest and recover from during the regular season. These are some key contributors that didn’t see the light of day when the Rockets and Warriors played four times before January 21st. If Warrior fans are hinging their hopes on “past performance is a precursor for future results.” Think again……

The Rockets have had some tough injuries this year and probably the guy they could least afford to lose defensively against the Warriors will not be suiting up. Patrick Beverley is a tenacious defender. He is a ball-hawking guard that disrupts, bothers and hinders opposing guards. In my opinion he was the Rockets best chance to try to contain and slow down Steph Curry. He tore a thumb ligament and has been on the shelf for more than two months. While there are rumblings that he may get his cast off and try to play, I wouldn’t bet on it. Even if he does take the floor he is nowhere near game shape and wouldn’t be the same defensive player we have become accustomed to.

I think the Warriors will win for several reasons but let me start with the obvious. The Warriors are simply better at the transition game than the Rockets. Harden is an incredible player. He is a prolific scorer, beating you from the perimeter and off-the-dribble. He takes a ridiculous amount of free-throws and gets bailed out with his floppiliciousness. But, he is a star and gets his team points. While he averaged 25 points a game against the Warriors this year he really struggled in terms of shooting percentage. Klay Thompson’s harassing defense kept him to 25 percent shooting from three-point range. Harden may get his points but he will have to be a volume shooter, and those are possessions that are empty trips for the Rockets. As we mentioned the Warriors hold NBA teams to the lowest field goal percentage in the NBA and the Rockets propensity to run-and-gun will be met with challenges by the Warriors lengthy perimeter defenders. Thompson and Andre Iguodala will make it difficult for the Trevor Ariza’s and Josh Smith’s to get free and open looks. The Warriors close-outs on jump shooters and ball pressure on Houston will stunt the Rockets cohesiveness.

The only team all season long that has been able to quell the Warriors running game is Memphis. Once the Warriors solved that riddle the series was over. After Sunday’s Game 7 win Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said his team will not change heading into the Warriors series. Let me repeat, he said his team will not change adding, “we are going to do what we do, if they prove to be better at it, then so be it.” Hmmmmmmm, interesting. Indications are that McHale and the Rockets feel comfortable running up and down the floor and trying to out-gun the Dubs. Good luck with that.

I think the Warriors have answers for everything that the Rockets will throw at them. Klay will check Harden. While “The Beard” will get his, it will take him a lot of shots to reach his average, and those are possessions where the Rockets aren’t scoring. Steph Curry is going to torch 38 year-old Jason Terry. Maybe 38 year-old Pablo Prigioni can use his guile to force a few turnovers, but the Rockets have a huge huge huge problem in trying to contain the league MVP. If Houston tries to switch a bigger player to Curry, he can use his quickness to get into the paint, and that will cause mis-matches elsewhere on the floor. The loss of Beverley is devastating at the point.

Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes are both playing at a high level and Green is simply a better and more consistent player than Josh Smith. They both can shoot the three, but Smith has a penchant for disappearing. To be fair, the Rockets don’t beat the Clippers without amazing performances by Smith in Games 5-thru-7. Barnes and Ariza will be a great match-up, but I like Barnes’ defensive prowess to shut-down or at least contain Ariza. Many will point to Smith and Ariza performing at high levels for the Rockets in the Clippers series, but I must highlight, look who was guard them. JJ Redick, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes ? Andre Iguodala, Green and Barnes are much better defenders. Ariza, Smith and even Terrence Jones will not be getting the same looks.

The center match-up is intriguing because Dwight Howard has his moments where he seems like an unstoppable force, then he has his moments where he looks like Mister Whipple, you know the Charmin guy ! Andrew Bogut and Dwight Howard will probably get entangled more than once. We will see if Howard wants to mix it up.  I know the Warriors and Bogut want to get physical with Dwight. The M.O. on Howard is you can get in his grill and it can affect him. Howard will get his, but he is an atrocious free-throw shooter and the Dubs have 18 fouls between Bogut, Festus Ezeli and David Lee to hammer him and send him to the stripe. My advice, if you are going to foul him, hit him  hard across the arms. Make him feel every foul.

The Warriors are an amazing 43-3 on their home floor in the regular season and playoffs. They ALSO have the best road record in the NBA at 32-14 including the post-season. So, even if the Rockets get a game at Oracle. If the Dubs just win one in Houston, the Rockets would have to somehow beat the Warriors again at the Roaracle. I just don’t see it.

This series will be entertaining, high scoring and fun, it could also be short. The Rockets are good at what they do, the Warriors are just simply better at it. The Warriors have answers for the Rockets strengths. Houston has stop-gaps for the Warriors strengths.  The Dubs have a way of coming at teams in waves and when those waves become too much, adjustments are needed. McHale has already said, the “Rockets aren’t changing a thing.” That is a huge mistake. As confident as Houston has to feel after their improbable seven-game win over the Clippers, the Dubs feel just as confident after staring their own mortality in the eye, and emerging even better because of it against Memphis.

Warriors in 5

 

 

 

40 years ago today….the Warriors did THIS !

 

Bill King

40 years ago today was one of the most glorious days in the history of Golden State Warriors basketball in the Bay Area. Bill King describes the final few minutes of the Golden State Warriors glorious upset of the Chicago Bulls in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. This was a massive upset as the Bulls were the odds on favorites to advance to the Finals. The Bulls had Bob Love, Jerry Sloan, Norm Van Lier, Nate Thurmond and Tom Borwinkle. The Warriors had the great Rick Barry, two magnificent rookies in Jamaal Wilkes and Phil Smith and merry band of role players that led our beloved Dubs to an amazing upset.  Bill King has this amazing call as the Warriors won 83-79 in front of an insanely raucous crowd in Oakland…..