Here is a link to my Sunday Warriors column. The full text runs below:
HOUSTON — It’s kosher to talk sweep, right?
I mean, the Warriors, now up 3-0 after slaughtering the Rockets 115-80 in Game 3, are going to win this Western Conference finals series. I wouldn’t advise you bet the mortgage on it or offer your first born as security — those are never wise risks. But, come on, the Warriors are going to win and move onto the league championships and these Rockets are duds. Houston, we have a problem.
This was the game the Rockets had to win. To show they actually could win a game against the Warriors — they are 0 for the season. To show they could defend their building crowded with their fans, who by the way, cleared out the Toyota Center after the third quarter like people fleeing a plague site.
Now, the Rockets have no hope. None. You’re darn right the Warriors should think sweep. Should make sure to sweep. When you have a team down, when that team has handed you the shovel, bury that team.
I already reserved a hotel room in Cleveland.
The Rockets kept saying they were coming home to Houston where good things would happen. In this muggy, heavy-air, gray city they would find their soul or their true selves or their hearts’ desire. The usual grasping-for-hope false reasoning. The Rockets were supposed to have pride of house, which means they’d rise up triumphantly in their place. They should plant the for-sale sign in the front lawn.
Before Game 3, their coach Kevin McHale said the Rockets played well in Oakland. He really did. He said they hung tough and merely had to fix a few “little” things. The little things were a big thing with him. All credit to McHale and the Rockets. They may have fixed the little things.
It was the big things they didn’t fix. Like allowing the Warriors to score uncontested layups all over the place. The Warriors’ offense looked like the pregame layup drill.
“They beat us in two areas we can’t get beat in,” McHale, his hair plastered with sweat, said after the game that never was a game. “We got hammered on the boards and we didn’t get into the paint. We’ve got to handle our business in the paint, to score down there. Take fouls and offensive rebounds. They beat us up in those two areas and we had no answer for it.”
Another big thing the Rockets didn’t fix. Guarding Stephen Curry. After the game, Curry said, “We understand the moment.” You think?
He went absolutely nuts in Game 3. Forty points. In your face. The Rockets said they would take away uncontested shots from him. Here’s a bulletin. They took away zilch. Curry made uncontested shots and he made contested shots and he made layups and he made 3s. He made any shots he wanted, while the Rockets looked on like tranquilized hospital patients.
“Steph was Steph,” Steve Kerr said afterward. “His shooting is hard to describe because I don’t think we’ve ever seen anybody shoot the ball the way Steph does. Off the dribble. Off the catch. Seven for nine from 3. It’s remarkable.”
The Rockets’ great player, James Harden, couldn’t comprehend the Warriors defense. The Warriors guarded him with — roll call here — Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. Harden didn’t know where they were coming from. He wanted to crawl into his beard and hibernate. Kerr said the Warriors handled Harden — “handled” was not his word — “because we have so many like-sized players.” When one guy gets tired, bring on the next one.
Harden, poor man, ended up with 17 points, which doesn’t sound that bad. Believe me, it was bad. He made three shots the entire game. In the second half, he was reduced to pile-driving the lane, an out-of-control truck. He drew fouls and shot free throws, although Draymond Green stuffed him once. His contribution was strictly a footnote.
Saturday’s game didn’t even feel like a playoff game. It felt like the Warriors playing the Sacramento Kings at home on a Tuesday night. And face it, the Rockets have lost their heart and cannot win this series.
Warriors’ defensive coordinator Ron Adams was so relaxed before the game, he ate dinner in the media room. I know because he ate with me. He seemed like a man with a normal pulse. Sure didn’t seem worried.
Afterward, Kerr explained why the Warriors won. “The halftime box score is really telling. We shot 45 percent. Harrison was 0 for 6. Klay was 4 for 13. We shot four of 15 from 3. You look at that box score and you think, ‘Well, we didn’t play that well.’
“But we had one turnover. We defended like crazy and, because we didn’t turn it over, we didn’t have to guard them in transition. We’re up 25 with a box score that doesn’t look that impressive from a shooting standpoint. It’s a great lesson for our team. We defend like crazy and we take care of the ball. It’s all about there’s value in every possession. When we do that, we’re tough to beat.”
No one asked McHale his formula for winning. They asked what the 0-3, on-death’s-doorstep Rockets do now.
“We’ve got nothing else to do,” he said, the proud former Celtic. “We’ve just got to come out and fight.”
And lose Monday or soon after that.
So, sure, a Warriors’ sweep isn’t absolutely necessary. But it’s what both teams deserve.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.