Ok Dub Nation, this is it.
Backs firmly pressed against the wall, facing elimination, the Warriors season lives on, or dies out based on how this game unfolds tonight! The basketball gods have once again given Golden State a little nudge in the right direction - without Chris Paul, Houston has zero margin for error. But it’s still far from a foregone conclusion that the Warriors will emerge victorious this evening.
Still, this is Golden State. A team that has shoulder-shimmied their way to greatness while proving Charles Barkley so, sooooo wrong. This team has been here before, and confidence is higher than I would be at a poker game at Don Nelson’s house (which is “very”).
A divergent timeline with long-lasting legacy implications
After sleep walking through most of the season, the Warriors find themselves within two wins of the Finals. On the other side, James Harden once again finds himself at the center of attention in a critical playoff situation. No matter how this series shakes out, both sides legacies will be at least partially defined by the next 48 minutes of basketball.
As they wrote over on the Dream Shake, a strong win tonight by Harden would have an immediate and severe impact on the amount of trash talking he gets:
If The Beard lays up a 40-burger to close out the Dubs on their own floor with no CP3, all that other stuff goes away.
Now, on the other side of the coin, the Warriors will get absolutely trashed if they drop this game, or the series. From Curry, to Durant, to Kerr - everyone in the organization would have this moment rubbed in their faces for eternity. We cannot allow that to happen.
Roster changes and what to watch for tonight
Just about an hour and a half prior to tipoff, Golden State dropped this bombshell:
Steve Kerr says Andre Igoudala will not play and talks about Patrick McCaw’s status. pic.twitter.com/whXGJf22Z1— The Athletic (@TheAthleticSF) May 26, 2018
This one hurts, but hardly changes the conversation. The Warriors still need to move the ball and get stops. If the Rockets can win without Chris Paul, the Warriors can win without Andre Iguodala. Kerr stated that Iguodala is still unable to run without pain though, so there’s really no question here that he is unable to go tonight.
Patrick McCaw has been activated, but is listed as “doubtful.” Again, not much official information on this, but seeing as how he hasn’t touched the court in about two months, it seems unlikely McCaw will be anything other than another cheerleader on the bench tonight. But it is Steve “let’s go ahead and play Varejao” Kerr, so who knows...
On Houston’s side, there are just as many questions. Chris Paul is out but given the already heavy minutes logged by the Rockets (they have four players averaging at least 34 minutes per game) it would seem like Mike D’Antoni will have no choice but to go to his bench a bit more. This means that someone who hasn’t seen much floor time will get a shot tonight. Ryan Anderson, Nene, and Gerald Green would be the most obvious candidates here.
Warriors cannot lose. Will not lose.
Golden State 108, Houston 95.