19 Apr 19
LOS ANGELES — Don’t view the Warriors’ Game 3 victory as the team trying to prove a point.
No, they were merely trying to restore order to a series that should have never been tied.
With the lesson learned in Game 2 — where they had a 16-minute stretch where they, per Stephen Curry, “literally [forgot] how to play basketball”, resulting in choking away a record 31-point lead — still fresh in their mind, Golden State led Game 3 from the opening tip to final buzzer, winning 132-105.
After a beat-down like that, let’s call this series what it is: over.
The Warriors might only have a 2-1 lead on the Clippers in their best-of-seven first-round playoff series, but it’s near impossible to see a path for Los Angeles to win three of the next four contests.
In fact, it’s quite difficult to see them winning other game.
The Warriors played sloppy, turnover-happy basketball in Game 1 and won by 17.
Then, they opened up a 31-point lead in Game 2 before their bizarre, collective implosion, best (but not completely) explained by a well-conditioned sense of apathy.
Thursday, they led by as many as 36 points on the road and declined to give the Clippers a chance to make much of a dent in that advantage.
Golden State is averaging 128 points per game on 64.8 percent true shooting with an absurd 71.3 assist percentage. They’re doing whatever they want to the Clippers on offense and their defense has the ability to shut down LA, too. (So long as the team doesn’t totally forget how to basketball again.)
The 2-1 series score might not make this clear, but these Warriors aren’t just better than these try-hard Clippers — they’re levels better.
Do we really need to see another game to state something that obvious?
(Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)
[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-tag”]Even after the loss of DeMarcus Cousins, the Warriors remain the only team that can actually beat the Warriors.
We’ve known that about Golden State all year, but their Game 3 performance only hammered home the point.
The juxtaposition of Thursday’s game with Monday’s blunder is jarring. Credit to the Clippers for continuing to fight on Monday, but the Warriors ability to self-sabotage is arguably more notable than their ability to dominate.
Everyone played a role in the Warriors win Thursday — Kevin Durant led the way, scoring 38 points (missing only two 2-point shots), Stephen Curry scored 21 points in 20 minutes, and Andre Iguodala added 15 off the impacts — but the impacts dramatically varied on the roster. Truth be told, a couple of players can carry the bulk of the load in a victory.
But to lose the way the Warriors did in Game 2, well, that takes a comprehensive, full-team effort — everyone in gold and blue needs to be pulling in the same direction to pull something like that off. In Monday’s case, the direction was backward.
Do you really think the Warriors have another effort like that in them in this series?
What about in this postseason?
(Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
Maybe the focus will wane again. This team’s recent track record almost guarantees it. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that an embarrassment like Game 2 is looking more and more like the best thing that could have happened for these Warriors.
It was the catalyst for focus. And a focused Warriors team might be unbeatable.
Last year, the Warriors lost two games in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but neither carried nearly the same sting as Monday’s loss. They were ultimately meaningless consolation wins for their opponents — the Warriors never needed to take an extra flight because of them.
No lessons were learned from those losses. So when the Warriors played a worthy adversary — the Houston Rockets — in the Western Conference Finals, they continued to lack the incisiveness necessary to advance.
Houston subsequently took a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference Finals and double-digit leads into halftime of Games 6 and 7 of the series.
The adrenaline junkie Warriors ended up winning the series — they kicked their game into gear when facing imminent death and received plenty of help from the Rockets in the process — but the margin of victory was mere possessions.
[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-tag”]Of course, Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his assistants have spent all season preaching that the team needs to have an appropriate level of fear towards their opponents and an equally appropriate level of aggression when playing the game. But more often than not, those pleas fell upon deaf ears.
In Game 2, the Warriors had neither appropriate fear or aggression and were deservedly embarrassed in a playoff game.
All the newfound 3-1 jokes were well deserved. Comments about this dynasty’s vulnerability might have been out of place, but the team deserved a proper public flogging.
And, not to take anything away from Kerr, but there’s no coach in the NBA that’s as effectual as the emotions that stemmed from Monday’s loss.
The Warriors channeled those emotions in the right way Thursday. Durant was out for blood — Draymond Green called it “kill mode” — but that didn’t negatively affect the team’s offensive flow. Defensively, Golden State played at a championship level.
“As much momentum as we lost in the final 16 minutes of Game 2, we got it all back early,” Curry said. “Everybody was clicking. Seemed like every possession we knew what we were trying to accomplish on both ends of the floor.
“Everybody was aggressive, decisive, getting good shots on every possession. Helped that most of them were going in. I think the way we went about our business was the sign of a resilient team, knowing who we are, what we’re capable of.”
Houston looms in the next round. With the way they’re playing and the current state of the Western Conference bracket, that series will likely be the toughest the Warriors face before a possible NBA Finals berth, a modern record fifth-straight.
That will no doubt be a fascinating showdown. It’s so tantilizing to start breaking it down now.
But before that, they have two games left against the Clippers.
Two more games to build momentum.
Two more opportunities to not make a point.