Here is a link to my Sunday column about the Warriors’ win in Game 1 vs. the Pelicans. The full text runs below:
OAKLAND — Andrew Bogut was bordering on downhearted. The Warriors had just defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 106-99 in the first game of their playoff series. Bogut should have been happy, running-around-the-locker-room-with-a-lampshade-on-his-head happy.
No way. “Most of the guys will be going home thinking about this one,” he lamented. “We didn’t finish it off right. We have to do a better job at being professional and finishing the game off.”
He sounded like a loser, which he was not. It’s just that the Warriors led by 18 points — 18 big ones — going into the fourth quarter and then they dawdled and futzed around, and the Pelicans made a run of sorts, and the Warriors won by a mere seven. So, the Warriors get graded down for style points. Who cares?
Bogut should lighten up. Should understand the entire fourth quarter was garbage time. It may have been the longest garbage time in playoff history. And the Pelicans thrived on garbage. As if they had morphed into seagulls at the O.Co Coliseum after an A’s game.
Pay no attention to that fourth quarter. Pay no attention to Anthony’s Davis’ gaudy fourth-quarter numbers — 20 points, six rebounds. He scored many of those points when the Warriors guarded the 3-point line late and opened his way to the lane.
“He scored a lot down the stretch when the game was in kind of a frantic mode,” Steve Kerr said.
In the game when it was a game, Davis, the Pelicans’ best player, didn’t do much thriving. Neither did the Pelicans.
So, let’s start again. Let’s talk about the Warriors being a mere finesse team, a mere jump-shooting squad. As you know, Charles Barkley said the Warriors are a bunch of finesse jump-shooting wusses. Wrong, Charles.
The finesse Warriors ruined the Pelicans, made them look like dead ducks — which they are. It’s hard to see the Pelicans winning a single game in this series, although both teams are required to play the requisite number of games per the rules.
And why did the Warriors slaughter, eviscerate, embarrass, beleaguer and murder the birds from Bourbon Street when it mattered, before the garbage men arrived? Because the Warriors were just plain tougher. Bigger and tougher. Meaner, too. Forget finesse. That finesse thing is a myth.
OK, if this were a high-school history paper, I’d identify two proximate causes for the Warriors’ win. Let’s do proximate.
The first cause is easy. So is the second — more on No. 2 in a moment.
The first cause is the toughness cause. Call it the Toughness Clause. The Pelicans — what a strange name — came into the game with one special thing. I mean, player. Davis. He is an extreme power forward, the best up-and-coming star in the NBA. He shoots like a dream from almost anywhere and he rebounds like Wilt Chamberlain. And he has moves. And the Warriors took him right out of the game for three quarters. Eliminated him. Made him a chump. Chumpicized him.
The Warriors did it two ways. They put Andrew Bogut on him. And they put Draymond Green on him. Green guarded him away from the hoop. Bogut guarded him near the hoop. They made Davis’ life hell. And they pushed Davis around — he’s as skinny as a bamboo pole. They moved him by shoving him, blocking him, blowing on him.
When Davis put the ball on the floor, they stole it from him. The first play of the game, Green knocked the ball away from Davis. You call that foreshadowing. Bogut, not known for swift hands, also knocked the ball away from Davis. More than once. Bogut and Green covered Davis so thoroughly he must wonder if they’re hiding in the closet of his hotel room.
“Draymond brings a different dynamic than I do,” Bogut said about their double duty on Davis. “Draymond’s way quicker and he can get in closer, whereas I have to get more physical and give him a step because he’s quicker than me. I think it was good we changed the matchups every now and then. Even though he (Davis) still made some tough shots, we’ll live with that.
“No one guy can stop him. He’s a top-five player in this league, up there with LeBron James and those guys. You’re not going to stop a guy like that. You’ve got to try to make it difficult for him and make him take tough shots. If he’s hitting fadeaways and scores 50, so be it.”
Let it be known Davis had exactly one rebound through three quarters. The team mascot gets more rebounds.
“If you get a body on (Davis) early, you can keep him away from (rebounds),” Bogut said. “He’s not the heaviest guy, so you can box him out.”
We noticed. Davis noticed too. “It’s tough,” he said. “You see Draymond there, and Bogut just waiting for me to come. It’s tough.”
Like fate. Bad fate.
That pretty much explains Proximate Cause No. 1. Now for Cause No. 2.
Superstars play super in the playoffs. Anthony Davis played phony super, was super when it didn’t count. Curry played super all the time. He was the real superstar. Sometimes, he got so excited he flexed his muscles for the crowd. Like Superman. He had 11 points in the first quarter when the Warriors buried the Pelicans. Curry threw dirt on the grave. He scored 34 total.
Take what he did early in the fourth quarter. Curry was on the bench sucking air. The Pelicans had cut the lead to 11. A whiff of tension wafted into the arena. Coach Steve Kerr put Curry back into the game, cut short Curry’s rest. Curry came in. Hit a 3 within seconds. The Warriors’ lead moved up to 14. Curry restored order, the proper balance of things. A superstar is an order restorer. Curry is the ultimate arbiter of order in the NBA.
The Pelicans had a plan for him. A sensible plan. Pick up Curry near the 3-point line and prevent him from taking 3s, cut him off from taking 3s. Brilliant in theory. What did Curry do? He drove the hoop. Scored with ease. He’s added those drives this season, drives when the 3s don’t exist. He is the complete scorer, takes over games in a single bound. The Pelicans didn’t know how to guard him. No one knows how.
Listen to the Pelicans’ Quincy Pondexter, condemned to guarding Curry: “Any little air space, the shot is going up, and you don’t want to look at it because it’s going to go in, most likely. He hits some of them that really just get the crowd going. He’s a hell of a player. He’s one of the top candidates for MVP, and he’s tough to guard.”
That means the Pelicans couldn’t guard Curry, but the Warriors could guard Davis. For the Pelicans, that trade-off is strictly for the birds.
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