(This recap is in reverse. Spoiler alert, Larry Riley discussing Curry’s pronation alert, David Lee saying “Wrizzle” alert, massive Warriors comeback and win alert)
Quick, unprofound thought to start this: Basketball is super fun.
Locker room chatter
Dorell Wright’s locker stall has seen few media members after recent games. Tonight, we’re waiting on the hero. Poking him, prodding him, asking when he can finally hold court. Dorell dresses himself languidly as the press congregates. Every motion deliberate, he strolls slowly to the gaggle. Then, with a wry smile: “Oh NOW they comin’ back.”
Yes, it’s a very conditional love.
Wright proceeds to answer questions about turning a corner, shooting without pump-faking, looking like his old self.
ESS: Do you really care about beating your old team or is that just something media guys like us care about?
Dorell Wright: Hell ya I care! I know I was pumped for this game, not saying I’m not pumped for any other game. But anybody want to beat they old team.
As David Lee exits the locker room, he yells, “Good job, Wrizzle!” towards Wright.
I have one hard-hitting question for Ekpe Udoh.
ESS: Would you say you Oh No’d LeBron pretty (well) on that first quarter block?
Ekpe Udoh: Ya, I said it loud too. I think the baseline mic got me too. So, that was a really good block.
Post Game Coach Presser
ESS: What do you think Dorell Wright was doing differently in this game that he wasn’t doing in games prior to it?
Mark Jackson: Well he was aggressive. I thought in the past, sometimes he would pump fake his way out of an open shot. He’s a shooter. Shooters shoot. And I think tonight, he just let his hair down, and took open shots. That’s the guy I expected to see from day one. And I’m so glad he’s back, and now, I expect him to build on it.
I believe this press conference illustrates how winning determines post-game questions. Had the Warriors lost, we would have grilled Mark Jackson about the botched final play of regulation. Instead, nobody asks about it.
End of OT
Key LeBron isolation brick. That seals the game for GSW, and I have little clue as to how it happened. This is not to say I’m shocked by a Golden State victory. Just that, it seemed they couldn’t execute a basic pick and roll throughout the contest. Also, in the third it appeared they were dead to the point of blood coagulation. Check out their third quarter shot chart, right before David Lee scored on a dunk:
Though the win is all so befuddling, I know Dorell Wright was a major factor. With three of his six threes coming after the third period, his is a personal comeback that propelled a team comeback.
End of Regulation
My thought before the final regulation play: “Perhaps they’ll flatten out for Nate instead of Monta this time.” Nope, it was Monta again. Unlike last game, it was more than a bare flattening. David Lee rushed up as a screener, but slipped the screen. Then, everything disintegrated like mummy dust. Monta got trapped near the corner. He jumped as though to shoot, and threw a feeble, wafting pass, much like the one he’d tossed against Utah. And though this pass was not intercepted, it arrived far too late for Wright. As Jim Barnett would later observe in the telecast, a behind-the-back pass may have eluded the trap, and hit Dorell in time. Yeesh.
They’re not quite dead yet! GSW comes bursting back as Miami gets mired in a plodding “Watch D-Wade dribble” offense. The lead is cut to 7 with 8: 29 left in the fourth. LeBron James comes back in with 6:33 to go, and makes some nice passes that result in rim clanks. One pretty pass gets Haslem to the line. I notice that Twitter is currently critical of Bron’s efforts because he has yet to take a shot. I’m mostly struck by how off Dwyane Wade looks. Somewhere else on my Twitter feed, Adam Reisinger says, “I just saw a bunch of Tweets about Kobe driving past Grant Hill and dunking. My Twitter timeline is apparently coming to me from 2001.” Late in the fourth, “The Next Episode” bounces over the stadium loud speakers. Stadium music is almost always current, but “The Next Episode” still graces contemporary culture. Credit to the relics who keep the reaper waiting.
In the meantime, Oracle is in delirium. They arrived to gawk at the Heat, but the excited crowd’s energy fuels the Warriors. I always doubted this talk about how Miami suffers for “having a target on their backs.” Well, in person, it seems plausible. As frighteningly ubiquitous as Miami’s defense is, a full-throated Oracle can clasp around teams like a massive venus flytrap. They just need an occasion, and Miami’s arrival apparently qualifies.
Nate Robison is the crowd’s affection object, and he’s an absolute driving terror tonight. Nate’s far from perfect–he deigned passed to an open Lee on quite a few pick-and-rolls–but he has been crucial to the Warriors in this game. There is an infectious quality to his enthusiasm, he shoots with bravery when everyone else has the yips. The crowd reaction to his infectious enthusiasm is amplified by Nate’s tangible athleticism. Oracle is throughly charmed by the novelty of a short guy, and they cheer all the louder when he impresses with a block attempt or drive. Robinson can be frustrating, but he is well worth any flaws on an evening like this.
The comeback becomes finally reality, thanks to a Dorell Wright three-pointer with 26 seconds left.
On a particularly ugly possession, Dorell Wright gets trapped, and inexplicably caught in the air. He just hurls the pass to no one, and it peters to center court. Chalmers snatches the offering, and really could have at his leisure. Charles Jenkins tries to move in front of the building fastbreak, only to fall over his own feet. Chalmers lays it in, eschewing a backboard pass to LeBron.
During the ensuing timeout, a jumbotron clip plays a Dorell Wright interview. He’s asked if he prefers Mayweather or Pacquiao, and he chooses Floyd to loud boos.
The Heat start to play defense. To call it “swarming” is misleading because it seems to move as a single conscious, brutal, quick, enveloping organism. This is Python Defense, and Warriors players are choking as their bones crack into blood-stained mosaic chips.
In other moments, the Warriors appear a cowed creature, seeing demons where only shadows exist. There are rushed, missed layups and short-armed jumpers. The Heat strike often enough that it’s difficult to think straight when they don’t. The Dubs are down 17.
Klay shot fakes Wade, gets the Allan Houston roll. He’s certainly had worse games.
Lee is getting open on pick and rolls, but also getting ignored. David has 14 points, even though the team seems to miss him as the open roll man every time. Lacking the help of a distributor, DL will have to forge for his own points. I suppose Lee has 80 million reasons to not be frustrated, but it does appear quite frustrating. Also frustrating: Wade is racking up free throws. Dwyane’s a human Gulf of Tonkin, cynically contriving opponent aggression for his own ends. That bastard.
LeBron’s angry and it’s not clear why. In a mid second quarter timeout, he slaps his hands in a demonstrative manner, yelling at teammates. On the ensuing inbounds play, a backdoor cut allows James a loud alley oop. He seems to kiss at the ball as it bounces before his feet, with no effort made to help get the rock to a ref.
Next play, a fastbreak. James blitzes towards a backpedaling Ellis. What kills Monta here isn’t LeBron’s speed, but the expectation of it. James seamlessly brakes his body into a slow-mo two-step, like a man doing tai chi. It’s a layup, Ellis has been knocked over by a feather.
LeBron has an extended, profitable stint alongside Norris Cole. On long, bouncing offensive rebound, James nods and motions for Cole to collect the rock, as though saying, “It’s yours, rook, take the rebound.” On another play, Norris gets an easy layup because his defender is terrified of another LBJ alley oop.
Wade is playing and he unleashes a merciless Eurostep on David Lee in the first possession, drawing a foul. Miami’s raw athleticism seems an inexorable wave that the Warriors will surely drown in.
Dorell Wright finally hits two threes in a row. Looking visibly relieved, he does something like an involuntary bowling motion while jogging back down court.
LeBron gets a loose ball near the basket, and rises high amid a thicket. The result is that he pushes the ball through the hoop with his left hand–without touching rim. This display is more jarringly athletic than your average dunk.
Another athleticism display follows when Udonis Haslem attempts to throw a long, arcing outlet to Dwyane Wade. The ball looks assured of its target for most of the flight. But, Nate Robinson streaks in out of nowhere to steal the baseball pass with a Mays basket catch.
Oracle has a different aura tonight. Last game they hosted the Jazz, and the dichotomy couldn’t be more pronounced. Hell, tonight’s national anthem is rendered by a violinist. His performance is lifted by the rarely seen “violinist swagger,” as this middle-aged musician bobs his head to the tune. The guy even fist bumps a Warriors officials as he jogs from half court.
Jackson answers a few questions in the presser. I ask about playing zone, Jackson likes to deploy it “as a change-up.”
Of considerable interest is the Larry Riley presser that follows. I had no questions for Jackson, and suddenly, my brain is awash in queries for Riley. Though a coach is often more famous than a general manager, there is far more to ask a GM.
But Larry’s presser will be Curry-specific, even more specifically about Steph’s ankle injuries.
ESS: You mentioned a variety of rehab measures, including orthotics. What I’m wondering is, has anybody looked into adjusting his running form?
Lary Riley: Ya. Ya, we’ve evaluated several things through the Nike program that we went through. And, I say ‘yes,’ but how do you adjust a guy’s running form? You know, in all honesty, that’s something that’s quite natural, and I don’t know that you can do a whole lot to change that kind of thing. What we’re talking about is, okay he does seem to step on the outside of his own foot, and then, it does roll over. There’s probably a few things that you can talk to him about, and make him aware of. But in the heat of a game, I don’t think you’re going to change things much.
When I ask if Curry has ever hurt himself outside game play, Riley responds, “No.”
Shootaround 5: 30 PM
Chris Bosh lofts three after three as Jeremy Tyler and Ekpe Udoh put in practice on the court’s opposite end. I am not quite sure why Udoh works on his post game so much. Someone with his frame seems best suited for a 15 footers and drives. But work he does.
When Wade jogs over to hug Jerry West, it’s oddly touching. The historically great two-guards beam at one another. They come from different regions, races, and generations. But both men know a hard upbringing. Both men can contrast that with success of the highest order.
Arrival: 5 PM
Last game was an utter deflation, or as Adam Lauridsen termed it, “The End of Optimism.” The enduring memory for me was a glum Monta Ellis, listlessly thumbing a box score print out, tossing it towards the dessicated, half-eaten turkey sandwich at the foot of his locker. That sandwich had looked so plump and juicy in pre-game. In post-game, you couldn’t get me to take a bite for all of King Tut’s gold.
And now, Goliath is in town, fists raised. I actually feel that the Warriors have a deceptively decent shot. They’re desperate and Miami is not. The GSW offense has been so stagnant that it has to regress back to the mean at some point? Right?
I’m keyed on Dorell Wright going into this one. His game’s been slowly eroding like a seaside fjord. Will Dorell find some spark against his former team? How will he defend LeBron? Does anybody actually care about how he defends LeBron–considering how we make LeBron’s failures all about LeBron?
The question of whether Wade will play hangs over the pregame stanza. I selfishly hope for it because I want to ever-so-nerdily study his running form. Henry Abbott has written about its injury-producing potential, and low and behold, possible plantar fasciitis. Is his form egregiously bad? Can his career be saved by correcting it?