So here we are. One game from what they’ve been toying with all year. One game from elimination and a summer full of ‘they ain’t even that good’ takes.
How did we get here? Well, the last two games have been chock full of the kinds of mental mistakes a season worth of building bad habits get you. Turnovers galore, rushed shots, and a complete lack of composure and poise when it really matters.
A team that kills you
And, crucially, in close games they were pretty damn good.
- In 2014-15 in games decided by 5 points or less, they went 12-3 in the regular season, and 1-1 in the playoffs.
- In 2015-16 in games decided by 5 points or less, they went 12-2 in the regular season, and 2-2 in the playoffs, including one nightmare that is a little too close to the bone right now but needed a laundry list of things to go wrong in order to happen.
- In 2016-17 something changed. In games decided by 5 points or less they went 4-6, and then didn’t have any at all in the playoffs until the legendary Kevin Durant dagger in Game Three of the Finals.
- This year they were actually a bit better in close games in the regular season at 10-4, but are 0-2 in the playoffs. Both against Houston when it really, really matters.
A team that overwhelms you
These Durant-infused Warriors don’t so much kill you as overwhelm you with talent. But they lack that poise and composure they once possessed.
This is not a criticism of Durant, though some may take it this way. Those early Warriors left people reeling, demoralised and lacking the will to come back. Nowadays teams expect the big run and know they have to fight through it (and the Warriors may well let you).
The changes that the Warriors have forced teams to go to — smaller, more three point shooting — also lessen the impact of those runs. Teams that can shoot threes can come back quicker than those that can’t.
The truth of the matter is these Warriors think they are better than you, and are almost always reasonable to do so. But that confidence, perhaps even arrogance at times, becomes an Achilles heel when you’re up against another team specifically built to match up against your style and have two genuine All-Stars.
After the Game 2 blowout, Draymond Green said ‘we get one of those a series’. Well this is the Western Conference Finals, against a very tough opponent.
You can’t afford ‘one of those’ in this series.
The Rockets have proven their mental toughness over the last couple of games. Whatever happens now, they have earned the basketball world’s respect. And this is coming from someone who hates their style of basketball — the flopping, the whining, and the traveling. I can’t stand it. But hats off to them.
So where do the Warriors go from here?
Tonight’s Warrior Wonder
What we have seen the last two games is sloppy play, dumb, unforced turnovers, and poor decision-making and execution in the clutch.
Both games were there for the taking.
Both games were frittered away.
The Warriors desperately need someone who can calm everything down, keep the offense moving, and help them regain their poise.
Enter Andre Iguodala.
It’s now clear just how important he is to this team, especially against Houston.
- This season without him in the lineup they are now 0-4 against the Rockets.
- With him they are 3-1 (cue more triggering flashbacks)
Along with the composure and poise he brings, he’s also one of their best perimeter defenders. As important as Warriors fans know he is, we have missed him more than any of us thought they would.
Tonight we saw the Warriors again struggle to find a fifth guy to play alongside their All-Star core. They ended up playing Quinn Cook in the closing stages of the most crucial game of the season to that point.
This Warriors system was designed to elevate the games of their stars, and make the roster greater than the sum of their parts.
Somehow, without Iguodala, this Warriors team overflowing with All-Stars is lesser than the sum of their parts.
As a great philosopher once said, ‘all the pieces matter’.
So now, here we are. On the brink. Can Iguodala come back? If he does, is that enough?
Who you got?
This poll is closed
Warriors in 7
Rockets in 6
Rockets in 7