Here is a link to my column about Game 1. The full text runs below:
OAKLAND — Haven’t we seen this before?
The other team (fill in the name) gets off to a good start and the Warriors seem a little shaky and play so-so defense and throw the ball away too much and Steve Kerr resorts to some whacko lineup, like all shrimps or all giraffes, and maybe you think this other team (fill in the name) is going to win the game or at least has a decent shot to be decent.
And then the Warriors tighten up their defense and stop throwing away the ball and start making 3s and the shrimp or giraffe lineup catches fire behind a bench player like Shaun Livingston who scored 18 points off the bench Tuesday night. “We tend to find somebody,” Kerr said after the game. And maybe the other team (fill in the name) sticks around a while, makes the Warriors work. The home crowd experiences sweaty palms. And all of a sudden it’s all over. Fast. Warriors win 110-106.
That’s pretty much what happened in Game 1 of the Western Conference final when the Warriors played whatsisname. Oh, yes, the Houston Rockets. Houston got off to a 16-point lead somewhere in the second quarter — it hardly matters when — and the Warriors ran them down, just played better and took over the game. The Warriors struggled with the Rockets most of the fourth quarter but prevailed, took over. It’s what the Warriors do. Their playoff record is now a very fancy 9-2.
Oh, sure, Houston’s James Harden went off, absolutely went off. He scored 28 points and he took over the fourth quarter. When he drove the lane — Harden against the entire Warriors defense — and shot over Klay Thompson’s frantically extended hand and made jumper after jumper, just about everyone went “Wow.” The Rockets lost, anyway. Heroism denied.
One thing you should know. Harden is basically a 2-point shooter. He shoots 2s and tries to get fouled to make it a 3-point play. Lot of effort in that. Stephen Curry, he is a 3-point shooter and his shots mean more than Harden’s. Count for more. Harden hit one 3-pointer, Curry hit six. Big difference. Difference in the game.
And then there was Dwight Howard, the Rockets’ big center. He hurt his knee, didn’t play the entire fourth quarter. Not clear if he’ll play in Game 2 on Thursday. After the game, reporters asked Rockets coach Kevin McHale about Howard’s status. He waved the question away with an impatient hand. Didn’t want to talk about players who don’t play. In a sense, Howard is irrelevant right now. McHale cares only about players who do play. He’s a competitor. A no-excuse guy. A no what-if guy?
When Howard played, the Rockets weren’t so hot, anyway. Draymond Green guarded him and gave him hell. Green is always in the thick of things. He made shooting hard for Howard and he stole the ball from Howard. Howard is not what you’d call a ball handler. Now that he’s hurt, his status will become Topic No. 1 in this series. If he can play, the Rockets have hope. Well, they’ll tell themselves they have hope. Are we talking false hope?
Kerr talked about the Warriors’ slow start. Seemed confused bordering on nonplused. “I think we finally realized it was the Western Conference Final,” he said. “Honestly, sometimes with Game 1 in a series there’s kind of a feeling-out process. Houston was not in that process and we were. They were coming off Game 7 (against the Clippers) on a high. They came out really as the aggressor and I thought we took a quarter-and-a-half to really dig in defensively.”
But the Warriors did dig in. They always do.
Curry came to the postgame interview room with his daughter Riley. Two years old. It was a lovely scene. She has no idea who her father is. Well, she knows him but not the way we know. MVP and all that. She brought the playoff press conference down to her size, down to manageable size for everyone.
Curry sat on the stage at a table. She sat on the floor. He started answering questions. She said, “I want to sit in your lap.” He let her. Father and daughter interview. Someone asked what it’s like to play against Harden, not that Curry and Harden guard each other. Curry started to answer the question. Riley grabbed his face. “It’s too loud, Daddy. Be quiet.”
I asked him why the Warriors seem to fall behind in big games. As he started answering, she walked off the stage and started to exit the room. “Now she’s out,” Curry said. Shook his head.
“It’s basketball,” he told me. “You’re not always going to be on your A game to start games. You come out to be aggressive, but it doesn’t always click and you’ve got to be able to find different ways to win. We’ve done that all season, through the regular season. We don’t want to be in the holes, especially in the first half. That’s not how we envision the game going. But we fight and that’s the one thing you can count on, we’re going to fight and get back in the games.”
Riley didn’t hear any of that. She was out the door, her mind on more important things — for her.
So, let’s end with basketball — although Riley stole the show.
Someone had mentioned to Kerr that the Rockets refused to quit, “stayed with the Warriors.” To which Kerr replied, “We stayed with them.”
The kind of staying that matters.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.