Nobody wanted anything to do with this playoff series.
Fresh off the greatest regular season of all time, the Golden State Warriors were looking to prepare for another title run against a team hungry and willing to play the part in a sparring session. Instead, the Houston Rockets, in an uneventful extension of the entire year, provided us with minimal effort, less execution, and a total laying down of a professional basketball team.
The Golden State Warriors finished off a gentleman's sweep with a wire-to-wire 114-81 blowout in Game 5. With that, the Houston Rockets are gone, good riddance, and the W's are free to write the next twist in their dream season.
Only one Rockets player spoke on the podium after Game 5, and JB Bickerstaff had an air of finality in his voice as he termed the Warriors as "the greatest team in the history of basketball" and repeatedly regarded the entire team as one with so much depth and skill. It wasn't so much a shot at his own team but the vast difference in dribbling, decision-making, and overall defensive awareness was night and day between in this anti-climactic rematch of last year's Western Conference Finalists.
As the Rockets' locker room emptied of role players quicker than James Harden's head swiveling on another back cut, the Warriors filed into the postgame room in order of how integral they were to the team's success in a series suddenly worth remembering as the springboard to what could be an especially special postseason run.
Kerr spoke about how his team must think without Stephen Curry, saying in his typical matter-of-fact tone, "We don't have the same margin of error."
As is popular belief with the MVP out, the Warriors are locking in much more on defense knowing there is no bailout option on the offensive side. As Shaun Livingston and Klay Thompson took the stage, the duality of emotions emerged.
Once emotionless and stone-faced, Thompson played to the media, pretending to act annoyed when he had to answer one question. He even nodded an audible "wow" when told Bickerstaff had placed as a top-two Western Conference team even without Steph. Beside him, Livingston answered question after question about his comeback from the injury, and how Kerr described him as the calming influence only gained from his experience through ten different basketball teams.
In describing the 30-footer Thompson nailed, Klay called Livingston the smart vet he is, waiting until Klay finished the cut instead of simply passing to the hot shooter. Knowing with his feet set that the shot would have a higher likelihood of going in, Thompson could only marvel at the grace of Livingston's presence.
And lastly, Draymond Green as always provided us the entertainment of the evening, saying, "I am a product of Steph. We play well together."
Not backing down to "criticism" that he is a byproduct of the MVP, Green instead offered his compliments and even went as far as to say, "If he don't make you better, you suck." A poignant quote, and one fitting the mentality of this team without Stephen Curry: fearless, aware of their shortcomings, and fully ready to take advantage of anyone with a semblance of doubt.
So now the Warriors move forward, without their star, against either the crippled Los Angeles Clippers or the upstart Portland Trail Blazers. Whichever way they proceed, they are confident in setting a gameplan without their "killer", as Marreese Speights would say. They have "the blueprint to win without Stephen Curry", as Steve Kerr noted.
Years ago, a first round win would be cause for celebration. In the midst of this dream season? At the beginning of what appears to be a fairy tale road paved with the trials and tribulations of a story we might tell our kids for the rest of their lives? The Golden State Warriors are as confident as they always are, with or without Stephen Curry. And that might be the scariest notion to even consider.
The Warriors are probably just as good as every single team in the NBA right now without their leader. As they lay in wait for the final piece in crushing the postseason gauntlet, there appears no stopping this incredible ride.