After that hilarious game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night, the juiciest and most anticipated piece of writing was the NBA’s Last Two-Minute Report (L2M) of that wild finish. As if Warriors fans weren’t pissed off enough already, the report didn’t do much to quell that outrage. But then again, these reports haven’t really had a history of being popular and useful, to be quite honest.
In short, the report backed the referees’ decisions that came within the last 6 seconds of overtime period, where Kevin Durant’s apparent 4-point play was ruled as a non-shooting foul, and his grab/hold of Karl-Anthony Towns on an inbounds play was ruled as a foul. I’ll give them the second ruling — Durant did foul Towns — but the question of whether that kind of call should’ve been let go in the spirit of letting the players decide the game as opposed to having the referees decide it for them is another topic of debate altogether.
Another interesting explanation contained in the report, however, was the one concerning Josh Okogie’s apparent intentional “slap” on Stephen Curry’s ankle/Achilles during a mid-air shot.
This angle of Josh Okogie slapping Steph’s ankle is absolutely appalling. pic.twitter.com/rbdSW4azHY— TheWarriorsTalk (@TheWarriorsTalk) March 30, 2019
Hot. Stove. Contact.
I don’t know about you guys, but I need Ja Rule to make sense of all of this.
Maybe I haven’t read enough L2M Reports. Maybe I haven’t studied enough official terminology. Or maybe, something about this just doesn’t seem right. These reports from the NBA sure are adept at creating these seemingly out-of-nowhere terms that aim to explain why their officials made the decisions they did.
Whatever the case, it’s clear to me — and a lot of people — that what Okogie did presented a clear injury risk for Curry, who could’ve easily landed awkwardly and sprained his ankle — or worse, could’ve ruptured his Achilles. What Okogie did was unquestionably dirty, and it had no place in a game of basketball.
Some people made a huge deal out of Curry taunting referee Marat Kogut after burying the game-tying three later on, particularly knocking him for his lack of professionalism and “arrogance.” Was Curry unusually out of character by doing that? Maybe. But when someone was trying to injure you, possibly threatening your career and life’s work, and the official responsible for that non-call has also made other questionable decisions during the game, you can’t really blame Curry, either.
So what Curry did afterwards — calling out the “MVP” of the game (Kogut) — was bound to happen, even if it came from someone who’s normally reserved and diplomatic about these kinds of things. When you think about it, the fact that someone like Curry — normally even keeled and calm — called out names makes you think how drastic the situation must’ve been.
Going into the Warriors’ game against the Charlotte Hornets, one could feel a sense of impending doom — not for the Warriors, but for their opponents. The Hornets were a few games out of the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, and a loss was something they absolutely couldn’t afford. They had no beef with the Warriors — all they wanted was to win to give themselves a chance at the playoffs — but they became the unfortunate punching bags for a team that was still seething from their previous game.
Curry walked into Oracle Arena with this interesting prop:
Steph’s ready for hot-stove contact ♨️ pic.twitter.com/TX0mGYrIhg— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) March 31, 2019
Obviously, Curry’s intention was to mock and troll that “hot-stove” ruling that was reported by the league, but it also served as a portent of the “hot-stove” destruction the Warriors were about to inflict on the Hornets, who were burned all night long by an offensive explosion coming from a team that was still clearly riled up by the previous game’s happenings.
Curry gets hot as a stove
Curry has always had historically-great performances against his hometown team, and this one was no different. He finished the night with 25 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists, on a shooting clip of 8-of-14 from the field (57.1 percent), with 5-of-8 shooting on threes (62.5 percent). This performance from Curry marked the eighth straight game that he had 5 or more threes in a game — a career-best.
This was his first three of the night, which came off of a great defensive sequence from Draymond Green and Kevon Looney. Green then combines with Curry on the other end for a simple 2-man game, where he gets the ball, hands it off back to Curry, and sets him free with a hard screen for a wide look at the basket.
His second three of the night — a classic give-and-go relocation corner shot, where Curry gives up the ball, is forgotten by the Hornets defense, and proceeds to make his way unimpeded to the right corner, where he gets the ball back and shoots the open three.
Curry gets this shot off courtesy of Durant’s gravity. Keep your eyes on Durant, who receives an off-ball backscreen from Curry. Two defenders fail to communicate, and they both attach themselves to the cutting Durant. This allows Curry to pop out behind the arc, receiving the pass and going up for the open three.
This three is a classic case of Curry fooling his defender. He gets matched up with the bigger Frank Kaminsky — he terminates his dribble by faking an entry pass to Looney, which fools Kaminsky into slightly backing up and looking away for a split second. Which is, obviously, a big mistake against the greatest shooter of all time.
Finally, after the Warriors get another stop on the defensive end, the Hornets inexplicably fail to keep track of Curry in transition, who has comfortably parked himself in the left corner without a single defender covering him. Durant finds him, passes the ball, and Curry sets up the practice shot for his fifth three of the night.
Curry — the unquestioned head chef of this Warriors restaurant that might as well have the equivalent of three Michelin stars — also had plenty of support from his sous-chefs. Klay Thompson had 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field (56.3 percent), with a 6-of-9 clip on threes (66.7 percent). Quinn Cook provided plenty of scoring punch from the bench, chipping in with 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting overall (61.5 percent), with a 5-of-6 clip on threes (83.3 percent). Durant once again played the role of point forward by dishing out 9 assists, with only 5 shot attempts that all went in for a grand total of 11 points.
As a team, the Warriors were absolutely sublime. They shot 60.2 percent overall from the field, knocked down 21 threes out of 33 attempts (63.6 percent), assisted on 41 of their 53 made field goals, had an offensive rating of 139.8, and had a defensive rating of 91.8. With numbers like these, no wonder the Warriors were able to carpet bomb the Hornets into oblivion by 47 points. Hey, at least they #DidntLoseByFifty.
The Hornets were a dead team walking the moment they set foot in Oracle Arena. They did nothing wrong to the Warriors — they were just another team looking for a monumental upset. But they ran into an angry team who used them as outlets for their anger. They were made to be examples of what could happen to any team in the league when the Warriors are hell-bent on sending a message, one stating that they are still the best in the league when they want to be.
They were made into sacrificial lambs, rendered helpless and brought up to be slaughtered and feasted on. The league gave Curry and the Warriors the “hot-stove” explanation — and the Warriors proceeded to send a message by cooking the Hornets on their own hot stove.
One cannot help but feel that the rest of the league is up next on the menu.
Seventy-six down, 6 more to go.
Stay Golden, Dub Nation.