Warriors: The Discouraging Game 5 And The Do-Or-Die Game 6
(originally written 5/26/18)
The frustration, slowly building with each passing possession, had finally boiled over. There's only so much a human being, even a patient one, can take—let alone a human being such as myself who's never been accused of having patience.
For what felt like the 25th straight possession, as his teammates loitered motionless, a Houston Rockets guard stood out past the arc, dribbled the ball...dribbled some more...dribbled some more...you get it. Remember that Simpsons episode when the fans rioted after a few minutes of painfully boring soccer? We were getting the hoops equivalent, and worst of all...it was working.
That type of "basketball" was the norm in early NBA times, and it damn near ruined the league until Danny Biasone mercifully invented the shot clock. I was experiencing life as a Minneapolis Lakers, Syracuse Nationals or Tri-Cities Blackhawks fan, and it essentially made me want to die.
As a father, dying over a stagnant hoops game isn't an option, so instead I let out my frustration vocally.
I must have been pretty flippin' loud, because at that moment, Houston's Chris Paul—the aforementioned zombie dribbler—finally re-animated, dropped from the deep left wing to the top of the arc, and heaved one up from about 28 feet despite practically wearing Stephen Curry as a second skin.
In goes the ridiculous shot.
Out comes the revenge shimmy.
How did Golden State lose to a team who's been reduced to this as a primary offensive strategy? Is this what Paul's game has been reduced to, I asked myself. After doing nothing in the first half, he repeatedly resorted to one tactic, and just one tactic:
Get the ball.
Get a big man to switch onto him (with little effort).
Back out to damn near halfcourt and dribble mindlessly.
Abuse big man.
There were at least two occasions when Paul—guarded by GS big Jordan Bell—ventured out SO FAR from the three-point line, the Dubs actually had time to switch back to a guard without serious risk of leaving anybody dangerously open. Yet, they continued to let Bell and David West be isolated on Paul...to disastrous results.
West is normally very tough to shoot against, but Paul treated West as if he used to be his slumlord. And Golden State let it happen time and again by refusing to simply fight through the screens. Paul had nothing before going to this strategy.
Of course, tonight Paul will have nothing, period, as he strained his hamstring trying to take it to Klay Thompson inside...and because of walking icicle Quinn Cook, the Warriors couldn't even capitalize on the resulting 5-on-4, which cost them.
What cost them more—Draymond Green and his continued struggles in the passing game. Of Golden State's first three possessions, Green's attempts at backdoor needle threads went awry twice. In a four-point game, those hurt almost as much as his game-ending drop kick out on the wing.
But hey, at least he's trying to pass the ball. The Warriors—you know, the team who averaged 322 passes per regular season game and 305 so far in the playoffs—fell all the way to 267 in Game 5. Andre Iguodala's absence accounts for some of the dip; he's possibly the league's most unselfish player. Still, there were far too many possessions ending with a couple of passes or less and far too little effort to find (or create) an open man.
That's the Warriors whole identity. You can't expect them to stray from that and succeed any more than you can expect Kenny G to stray from the sax and succeed in the rap game.
Before you credit Houston's D, which was aggressive and effective in bursts, remember that Golden State dropped 110 or more on the Popovich-coached Spurs twice without Curry just a few weeks ago.
It's more than a little troubling to see the Warriors still lose on a night in which Houston's top three players combined to shoot 17-for-55 (with the team at 37%), records just 12 assists as a team, watches Harden go 0-for-11 from range and commit six turnovers—though he did actually contribute some D, especially early—and goes the final minute of a close game with Paul on the bench.
That's what happens when Golden State: continues to switch even as it plays right into Houston's hands, doesn't get a 3 from Curry until Q2, loses six possessions to Green turnovers, executes—as TNT's Chris Webber put it—"the worst 2-on-1 fast break I've ever seen" early in Q2, and continues to allow Kevin Durant to go 1-on-5 even as it's clear his shot is not falling.
(Including being rejected once...has that ever happened to KD before?? Between that and Clint Capela stuffing Green's dunk, it's clear just having Hakeem Olajuwon in the building ups Houston's shot-blocking capabilities.)
Don't even get me started on Curry's Tasmanian Devil-defense on Harden's crossover drive with 4:35 left in Q2.
Some things happened in Game 5 that will not happen again. Gerald Green of Houston will not drill fallaway 3's from opposite corners on successive possessions. Draymond Green will not turn the ball over that much again—he just CAN'T. West will not be exposed to Houston's guards time and time again—he just CAN'T.
Capela will not be allowed to go unimpeded down the lane repeatedly. No way Durant shoots 8-for-22 in Game 6. No way the GS bench chips in just four points, especially if Iguodala takes the floor. No way does Golden State score eight points in the first eight minutes...not at home.
Game starts in minutes. Go, Dubs!!!