When asked about his scintillating shooting in the first half, Andre Iguodala said, "It kind of feels like scrimmage in practice, you know what I mean?" When asked to elaborate on his response, he shot a quick glance at Draymond Green beside him and slowly and carefully iterated that he is the man in charge of running the offense and shooting more when Stephen Curry is out. Satisfied with his carefully concocted answer, he and Green shared a laugh on stage.
The Golden State Warriors together shared one on the court.
Without Stephen Curry, the Warriors replayed the win they had in Houston with the exact same game plan. They backcut, ran circles, and dribbled right around a Rockets defense that fought with themselves more than through all the fantastically illegal screens. Moreover, each and every player seemed to play with more confidence than ever before. There was no fear, no tightness, and even less respect paid to the other team on the court. How can one even try when the opponent starts the game and subsequent second half with repeated post-ups of Donatas Motiejunas on Draymond Green?
The game itself provided us the same storyline for these Warriors. Yes, they were solid enough during the regular season but how much would change with the pressure cranked up a few notches? It seemed like the atmosphere only affected the Rockets more than anyone. Buoyed by the emergence of Shaun Livingston, Andrew Bogut's defensive brilliance, Andre Iguodala's rhythm shooting, and everyone else moving one step forward on the totem pole, the Warriors never gave the Rockets much of a chance.
Iguodala described it best, "We have guys with a lot of confidence and guys who do a lot of sacrificing. And they kind of hold back their total game for the better of the team. We know what each guy is capable of. So when guys are playing this well, this is no surprise for us."
Around Curry, the Warriors pose the elite of role players in Draymond, the most elite of role shooter in Klay Thompson, and an array of role players that fall into a beautiful puzzle. With Steph, the MVP and best player in the world, they're two notches above any team in the entire NBA. Without him, they know they can come out of their shells a little, so to speak, and adapt a different style that hounds defense with nonstop movement, and locks offenses in a lethal vice-grip.
James Harden attempted 13 free throws in the first half but just 2 in the second half. Without the benefit of a call while driving into the lane, Ron Adams' defense swarmed and devoured everything in sight. It was a total team win, not unlike any other game with Curry, but one that exemplified just how much chemistry and high-IQ basketball can paper over even the greatest of losses.
The Houston Rockets had next to zero shot at winning on the road to even the series. The Golden State Warriors knew this and had no issue essentially ending the series before there was ever a whisper on the contrary.
1. Of course Andre Iguodala, a pure rhythm shooter, reverted back to his NBA Finals self when the Warriors most needed him. That's what Steve Kerr said Iguodala reminded him of tonight. Iguodala also mentioned in the postgame that he has a specific day-before warmup and had a great shooting session and knew this was coming.
2. Steph ended up celebrating a couple plays in the first quarter before walking in and out from the locker room throughout the room. Kerr mentioned that he did not know whether the injury was a foot or an ankle and that they would not risk anything. It seemed more joking the way he reacted to the question than anything serious. I love to play Fake Doctor so I will say Curry seemed up in spirits and there was no bad limp going on. I'd hazard he sits one more game.
3. Andrew Bogut swallowed Dwight Howard whole. Howard and Harden are perhaps the least in-rhythm players with each other that are stars. On more occasions than I can count on two hands, they pointed and screamed, misread and misplayed passes, throughout the game. The Rockets are a mess. Don't expect to see most of these guys on the roster next season.
4. When Playoff Harrison Barnes arrives, the Warriors will only get better.
5. Shaun Livingston played through an illness tonight, as if that performance needed any more embellishment.
6. On a personal note, I am hoping the Warriors will finish this in four so I can take a couple weeks off before the second round in the beginning of May. The Warriors have been playing nearly every other night at home for the past month and a half and I am unfortunately quite certain I gained a sportswriter's belly. Here's to not becoming full media. See you all soon.