Was it ever in doubt? Well, yes actually.
First quarter: ‘What the actual f&%k is going on?!’
And when I say “we all knew,” I mean everyone watching — the Warriors sure as hell didn’t start the game like they knew that was coming.
The Rockets absolutely blitzed them from three to open the game, going 8-for-12 largely because so many of those looks were as wide open as Grand Canyon.
Most of my game notes from the first quarter are frankly unprintable. But suffice to say that the general gist was shock, amazement, and — yes — some anger, that the Warriors could come out in an elimination game and just let the other team do whatever the hell they wanted. It was as if they expected to beat the Rockets just because they showed up to the arena, not because they actually had to do anything.
The only positive was some nice, energetic minutes from Jordan Bell, who was then pictured on the bench with Warriors physio Chelsea Lane checking his knee.
This monstrosity of a quarter was capped off by Nick Young fouling James Harden on a three-point shot with about one second left on the shot clock to give him three free throws and the Rockets a 39-22 lead.
If Steve Kerr wasn’t going to break a clip board in that moment, I was ready to leave my apartment in the middle of the massive thunderstorm raging over London, wander ‘round looking for a shop that sold clipboards and was open at 2.30am, buy a particularly smashable one, and break it my goddamn self.
This was definitely the worst ‘greatest team ever’ I had ever seen.
Second quarter: ‘OK, breathe’
They weren’t really going to go out like that, were they?
No, they weren’t. Behind the unprintable game notes, desire to go super-saiyan Steve Kerr on a defenseless clipboard, and general astonishment at the Warriors lackadaisical start, something interesting was happening.
This game was being played at a different pace. It was definitely not the slugfest of much of the rest of the series. There was more ball movement, more transition opportunities, and even some more open three point looks.
The first possession of the quarter Klay Thompson did something that would become a theme of the evening, and nailed a three. A few possessions later he got himself a nice easy layup in transition.
Now if only they could just be a little more patient, clean up some of the rushed shots and poor execution that was still plaguing them, and lock in defensively they might be able to mount a comeback.
Still, with eight minutes to go in the second quarter, Houston had 43 points, which is a lot. As it happened, that turned out to exactly half what they ended up with.
Kevin Durant, who has spent the last few games playing a little too much like the Oklahoma City Thunder version of himself, began to play like the Warriors version he came here to be. In this possession he turned playmaker, running the pick and pop with Thompson—a set the Warriors have used with some success in the later stages of this series—with aplomb.
Just your classic Durant-Klay pick and pop 3 pic.twitter.com/1jeSvF10eu— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) May 27, 2018
Durant followed that up by knocking down a three pointer of his own.
Then, as Bell guided Harden to him, Durant blocked the shot and took it in for a coast to coast layup.
And then (oh my god is this a mirage?!), he crossed up Harden, got to his spot and instead of taking a mid-range jumper PASSED THE DAMN BALL!! The result, a wide open Kevon Looney, who finished the play, and a nice endorphin boosting assist for KD.
A Curry layup cut the lead to six and, after a particularly egregious Harden three point flop took him to the line, Thompson nailed a jumper to keep the Warriors within striking distance.
A couple of threes from a red hot Eric Gordon and PJ Tucker off a Harden drive pushed the lead back to 12, until Bell, who was doing a really nice job keeping the ball moving and hustling around, found a cutting Curry for a nice finish in traffic.
There the Rockets lead remained at 10 until the halftime buzzer sounded.
The Warriors weren’t in great shape, but at least the contours of a comeback were being sketched out.
Third quarter: The Warriors rediscover their identity
We all know the stats. The Warriors love themselves a nice big third quarter.
And this run came early. Just 95 seconds in and the Warriors were down only two points.
It began with the first of Klay Thompson’s many second half threes. On the other end, the Warriors discovered that you can actually bring the opposing team’s three-point percentage down by actually, you know, contesting some shots.
Tell me Harden is mad at himself, right? RIGHT? pic.twitter.com/HmtYVuilAv— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) May 27, 2018
This was followed up with another Thompson three, from the corner.
And then, in an even more ominous sign for the Rockets, Curry demonstrated just how he likes to barbecue his big men. With Clint Capela switched onto him, he threw a crossover and then dished it to Looney. Like most big men Capela thought ‘job well done.’
Wrong. Curry darts to the wing, quickly receives the ball back, and nails the open three.
Back came the Rockets, with James Harden nailing one of his trademark step back threes. Not much you can do about that.
The Warriors respond with another Thompson three as he loses his man and sprints to the corner. But look at this pass from Draymond Green. He knows exactly where Thompson is cutting to and throws it right to the spot just as the Rockets give up chasing him around. It’s a classic Warriors set being executed by a team that has done it a million times before.
Low key special pass to throw it to the spot early pic.twitter.com/NVNF6fXxCF— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) May 27, 2018
This was turning into the kind of game we’d all been hoping for. Actually exciting, not some boring iso-brick-fest from the 1990s.
Harden looked like he was on for a big game, but then a couple of big defensive possessions changed that picture. First Green blocked him on the drive, then Thompson forces Harden to airball a stepback three, sprints out in transition, and drains another three for himself.
Klay with amazing defense on this Harden 3 = airball. Klay hits the 3 to make it 76-74 Warriors. Klay has been the best Warrior by far tonight pic.twitter.com/wJymmG5jTn— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) May 27, 2018
All of a sudden, just when the Rockets were wobbling, Steph Curry goes into full on disrespectful mode. Facing down Gerald Green he just looks him in the eye, rises up and nails a three right his face, and nonchalantly jogs back down the court while the ball is still in the air.
Damn son, that’s cold.
After another Steph Curry three the score sat at 82-76 to the Warriors. They had their noses in front, but the momentum shift you could sniff in the air was palpable.
This is the moment at which Kerr decided to take the molten lava Steph Curry out of the game. He’s made some head-scratching decisions in this series, and that’s one that could have hurt.
Luckily it didn’t as the Warriors bench kept scrapping. Kevon Looney’s hustle saves a bad possession and then Nick Young is repaid his favour from the first quarter as he gets hit on a three point attempt with the quarter winding down.
Being the Swaggy one, he of course misses the first free throw.
Ah, these Warriors. Thompson draining threes in a crucial Game 6, Curry cooking up a storm in the third, Kerr with a maddening ‘Strength in Numbers’ decision, Nick Young swagging it up.
It all felt so comfortable and so familiar. At last.
Fourth quarter: ‘This is the greatest ‘greatest team ever’ I have ever seen!’
The fourth quarter opened with something I’ve sneakily been suspecting for a while. You’d think that Nick Young has absolutely no chance whatsoever of guarding the notoriously shifty James Harden.
Well, actually. The thing is Young’s so slow to react that by the time Harden has thrown his third fake, the Swaggy one is still reacting to the first and is somehow in the right place at the right time, but for all the wrong reasons.
It’s a bit like how Looney’s lack of athleticism helps him from biting on the multiple pump fakes that get thrown his way. He just doesn’t jump, so the Rockets don’t know what to do.
Anyway the Swaggy one uses his secret technique to force Harden into a turnover, and then moments later does something truly shocking as he passes the ball to Livingston for an open dunk.
As Harden struggles to figure out the perplexing defense being played on him, he finally breaks past Young, only to be met by Draymond Green and one of his five monster blocks on the night. A fast break ensues, and guess how it ends up?
Yep, a monster Klay Thompson three. Man, it must suck to be on the other end of a Klay Thompson Game 6.
Draymond Green doing everything pic.twitter.com/igZDGJxJtI— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) May 27, 2018
The Warriors were breaking this thing wide open. Curry finishes a tough drive in traffic, and then nails a three off some good ball movement. Amazingly he manages to resist the urge to shimmy right in Harden’s beard as he falls towards the Rockets bench.
Steph drives, passes it out, sprints to corner and hits the 3 to make it 94-79... pic.twitter.com/NOHatxYX4M— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) May 27, 2018
Finally, the Rockets’ short rotation catches up with them. They’re clearly exhausted by this point, and are forced to turn to Joe Johnson.
That went about as well as can be expected.
Thompson follows that up by swishing yet another three.
Ladies and gentlemen,— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) May 27, 2018
Klay 'Six' Thompson pic.twitter.com/CvxFCY2vuB
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Jordan Bell flies in for the tip jam.
A most impressive tip dunk by Jordan Bell pic.twitter.com/dyKVx72B4c— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) May 27, 2018
The Warriors have found their fifth guy. What a game from the rookie after being in and out of the rotation for the second half of the season.
The onslaught finishes as it began, with a Klay Thompson three. That’s Thompson’s ninth of the evening, and a 25 point lead for the Dubs. Game 6, baby!!
Garbage time ensues, with a wonderful sight - Pat McCaw back on the court. Oracle gives him the welcome he deserves and on his first few possessions he snags a rebound, a steal, and a jumper.
And so this series will end as it began - with the Warriors needing to take one game on the Rockets’ home court to salvage their legacy from a sloppy season.
Game 7 isn’t likely to be such a wide open, wild affair - it’ll probably be a much tighter game, resembling much of this series. And we haven’t seen the Warriors pull one of those out yet.
Everyone is, of course, hoping Chris Paul and Andre Iguodala will be healthy enough to play. We don’t yet know whether either will make it back in time.
But one thing’s for sure - whatever happens Monday night is set up to be an epic end to an epic series.
Dubs in 7.
Who was your Warrior Wonder in Game 6 against the Rockets
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Klay "I was born for this" Thompson
Handing the Panic-o-meter over to the Rockets fan base