Here is a link to my column previewing Warriors-Rockets. The full text runs below. FYI, I misspelled Duane Kuiper’s first name in this column. My bad. I mean I know how to spell it, had brainlock or jet lag. Called the paper. Hope they fix it. Duane, I’m sorry.
Warriors in five games.
All credit to the Houston Rockets. They came back from the dead against the L.A. Clippers. I mean on the doorstep of the hereafter. Getting fitted for the pine box. The Rockets showed great courage, almost being eliminated in Game 6 but fighting back, fighting against what appeared sure elimination and winning that game, and then winning Game 7.
Just great. Praiseworthy. Astonishing. But compare them to the Warriors.
The Warriors never have been in danger in these playoffs. Not one time. Sure, they lost two games to Memphis and had to make a miraculous comeback against poor New Orleans in one game. But they were never in danger of being dead. Or of being almost dead. Or even a little dead. And, certainly, they never faced elimination. Their playoff record is 8-2. That’s some record.
The Rockets have two great players. “Great” is no exaggeration. James Harden and Dwight Howard. Harden is at the Stephen Curry level. Please don’t argue.
He drives the lane with that goofy beard that looks like a shrub digging into his face, and he gazes around like he has periscope eyes, and he makes the sweetest pass you ever saw to a perimeter shooter or he keeps the ball and continues on, continues slowly — slow through the lane is the rule — and he draws a foul and he lays in the ball and walks to the foul line where he lives during games. It’s like he rents the foul line from airbnb.
“Harden gets a lot of (foul) calls by swinging his arms through and looking for contact,” Andrew Bogut said at Monday’s practice. “We’re going to try not to strip him at all and just make him finish over the top of us.”
“Over the top of us” means over Bogut and Draymond Green. It also means the Warriors plan to keep their hands to themselves. Leave Beardo alone as he drives the hoop. If that’s even possible. He’s a magnet for drawing fouls. For scoring. For taking over games.
The Warriors will not cover him with one man. Can’t do it. They’ll start with Klay Thompson. But throw in Andre Iguodala and Leandro Barbosa and Harrison Barnes. Change the look. Change the body against Harden. Harden still will score like crazy.
And then there’s center Dwight Howard. His shoulders are giant-size. Looks like he’s wearing shoulder pads underneath his skin. He will rebound, and grab lob passes and crash the ball through the hoop. A living breathing load.
“He lives in the paint much like myself,” Bogut said. “He doesn’t drift out to the perimeter a lot. He’s always positioning for offensive rebounds. Very similar to Z-Bo (the Grizzlies Zach Randolph) in the way he plays. Obviously, ten times more athletic than Z-Bo. He gets pretty rough out there. He gets frustrated sometimes and I get frustrated. There’s elbows flying. That’s what it is, especially in the playoffs with two big fellows. I don’t anticipate it being worse than Z-Bo and (Marc) Gasol, but you never know.”
So, sure, the Rockets pose problems. It’s just that the Warriors beat them every time they played this season — four in a row. All the Warriors players — I mean all — say the regular season doesn’t matter. The playoffs are a whole new ballgame and all that. Here’s Bogut quoting the company line, a necessary company line. The Warriors would be saps to take Houston lightly.
“The regular season doesn’t matter too much,” Bogut intoned. “We’ve got to be careful. We don’t think, ‘4-0 and we’re going to sweep them.’ It’s not going to happen like that. They’re not going to give us the conference-finals trophy just because we beat them four times in the season.”
Sure. But come on. Dwayne Kuiper would say the Warriors have “ownage” on the Rockets. And he’d have a point.
This is where the ownage comes from. The Rockets don’t have the defensive firepower to match up with Warriors. Plain fact. Who’s going to stop Curry, Thompson and Green?
You imagine Harden covering Thompson. OK, that makes sense. Harden is big, strong, can lay on the pressure. Not that Harden loves playing D. His mindset and all his creativity are to score or dish. The other half of the game seems to bore him. When he makes a good defensive play, the TV announcers point it out, over-praise him. That’s because Harden took them by surprise doing something out of the ordinary. He’s no Andre Iguodala taking a scorer out of his game, taking away his confidence like a pickpocket lifting wallets at Pier 39. Harden will not take Thompson out of his game.
Oh, and one other thing. Who’s going to guard Stephen Curry, worry him, make him labor? Patrick Beverley might have put up a fight. He’s out of the series. Wears a cast. Pin in his arm. Won’t play. No Beverley equals no pressure.
Curry will have ownage on ancient Jason Terry or Trevor Ariza or Corey Brewer or whoever. These are role players. They can have a good game. When they do, you notice and exclaim, “Wow!” Unexpected.
And Green will have ownage on Josh Smith. Great story Smith’s story. Dumped by Detroit this season. Remaindered. Picked up by Houston. And he’s played well. Really has. But this guy is going to dominate Green? Please.
Houston lacks the defensive firepower to win the series. Frankly, lacks the offensive firepower.
Someone asked Curry if this is the Warriors’ “time,” asked Curry who, to eliminate life noise and needless mind clutter, deleted Twitter from his phone right before the second Pelicans game. Curry looked at the reporter, Curry’s light green glowing. “We’re here,” Curry said. “We’re still playing. We’ve handled every test this season really well.”
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