All season long, we’ve wondered what it would take to wake this team up. Chasing a different brand of history, the regular season lost some of it’s luster for this Golden State Warriors team as they dragged themselves through 82 game’s worth of prequel.
Even in the playoffs, it was hard to miss: the old magic was changed. Though they had their individual moments, mostly it felt like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and the rest of the team were getting pulled through the playoffs as ancillary pieces behind the historic performance of Kevin Durant.
And then KD went down. And then somehow, the old school Warriors pulled out the win anyways.
Somehow, the ancient magic was returned. Curry was once again the dynamic driving force behind what felt like a inevitable winning machine. You could see the despair and hopelessness on Chris Paul and James Harden as they left the court shell shocked and vacant-eyed.
It felt right.
WHO: Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets (Warriors lead series 3-2)
WHEN: Friday, May 10; 6:00 p.m.
WHERE: Toyota CenterHouston, TX
RADIO: 95.7 The Game
We Believe part whatever: Moving forward without Durant
The funny thing about faith is that you don’t really need it if there’s evidence in front of you. With evidence, there’s no need for faith; it’s not until you are faced with a lack of evidence that you need to draw on your faith.
While the Warriors steamrolled the entire league for consecutive years, Dubs Nation could simply bask in the majesty and splendor of it all. But after a few years, the league is starting to catch up. Even with Durant and Curry leading what is arguably the most talented starting five in the history of the NBA, there was a palpable air of concern.
Meaningless losses in February were easier to write off, but as Golden State failed to separate themselves from the Los Angeles Clippers, and then ran into a Rockets team that was exactly as tough as advertised, a lot of fans starting doing the Doctor Strange face flick as they mentally forecast all the millions of permutations. “What if it’s not our year? What if Durant leaves and this is it?”
With a loss last night, that could very well have been the last Warriors game at Oracle - ever.
But that’s not how it went. Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala found another gear and managed to hold off the Rockets to win a pivotal game five, and now they march on Houston with serious intent to end the series on the road.
We still don’t know how this ends, but we do know that this old school core has given fans every reason to have faith in them.
Updated (through G5) raw +/- for the Rockets/Warriors starters:— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) May 9, 2019
Draymond Green: +37
Steph Curry: +23
PJ Tucker: +14
Klay Thompson: +9
Andre Iguodala: +9
Chris Paul: +7
Kevin Durant: -1
James Harden: -3
Eric Gordon: -10
Clint Capela: -35
Doing whatever they can to help their team win, Chris Paul and James Harden’s antics haven’t been enough
James Harden is one of the best players in the NBA. He has routinely put up historic numbers while carrying a huge offensive burden for one of the top offenses in the league. Likewise, Chris Paul is a future hall of famer with a list of accomplishments taller than he is.
And yet, once again in the playoffs, these two found themselves unable to lead their team to victory when it counted the most. And as Shakespeare says, “heavy lies the head that wears the crown” - these losses, and the importance are not lost on Houston’s biggest stars; the blame has nowhere else to go. From The Athletic:
With 39 seconds left, and Kevin Durant long gone, the victim of a right calf strain, Chris Paul raised his head to look at the jumbotron in the middle of Oracle Arena. The Rockets were only down four, but it felt worse than that. He shook his head in disappointment as he walked towards the bench, mired in the worst playoff outing of his esteemed career.
With 4.1 seconds remaining, James Harden crossed halfcourt unable to hide his frustration. “Fuck!” he yelled, clapping his hands together.
They know better than anyone. This next game (or two) could very well be the defining moments of their respective careers.
What to watch for in game six
The Durant-sized hole
Even as we await the MRI results, it’s assured that Kevin Durant will not play tomorrow. Facing a thin bench, coach Steve Kerr and the Warriors will have to get creative. My guess would be Kevon Looney starts, though perhaps we would go super old school and throw Bogut out there for a few minutes. As Anthony Slater suggests, it would allow us to match him up against Capella.
Behind that, expect the Warriors to try Jonas Jerebko. He hasn’t been great in the series, but given Kerr’s complete lack of trust in Jordan Bell and the already heavy workload on the stars we just don’t have many other option to soak up the 42 minutes per night previously carried by Durant.
Splash Bros vs. whatever we call the Rockets backcourt
As Marcus Thompson write for The Athletic, that wasn’t just a momentous end to the game. For Stephen Curry, it was a timely reminder that the magic was still his to call upon:
He overcame the Rockets relentless double-teams, his prolonged slump, the enormity of the moment, and carried the Warriors to the biggest win of the season. He accounted for half of the Warriors fourth-quarter points, scoring 12 himself and assisting on a pair of layups. And the attention his double-teams drew set up several other points, including Klay Thompson’s game-sealing layup, space and opportunity provided by the Rockets’ determination to keep the ball away from Curry.
Both Curry and Thompson were superb in the final moments. And as good as they’ve been for the series, Harden, Paul, and Eric Gordon were unable to overcome it. This feels very familiar because it has been. There is a tremendous amount of personal glory, and shame, up for grabs right now and it should be fun to watch.
Don’t you dare look away from this, Dub Nation.
Well, I’ll be watching this game in Hawaii, so that’s good. But otherwise? My only prediction is that this game will be borderline too stressful to enjoy. High stakes, and high quality basketball - here’s hoping our boys come out on top.
I started off predicting Warriors in seven games, let’s pray to Threesus that Golden State can prove me wrong tonight.