There are some moments in covering a team that you can just physically and mentally feel that they are ready for greatness. During the championship run, the joy that carried the Golden State Warriors led them all the way to the top. Through the turmoil and the pain, they remained absent of anger and confusion. In last season’s historic run and collapse, their defiance and need to prove themselves pushed the Warriors near the top and over the edge. The joy was replaced by the hunger for history and the burden became a little too much. This season’s Warriors dropped a 45-22 opening quarter in a closeout game and the message became deafening: this postseason ride is aching for special.
It started with a transition flip from Curry to KD into a 3 and the avalanche began. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green took turns canning 3s. Zaza Pachulia even scored on a driving layup through a foul. But the real show of dominance resided on the defensive end. Damian Lillard played 41 minutes and poured in 34 points but most came after the massacre.
With a locked in defense against a team with just two playmakers and nary a shooter, the Warriors defense performed a shell drill for the ages. Cutting off driving lines from Dame and CJ McCollum and snuffing the tertiary players at the rim, the Blazers looked like an actual JV team trying to run motion sets against the varsity team.
Durant had a chasedown LeBron-esque block that led into a Steph 3 at the other end. Draymond’s hands took over from the beginning rather than in crunchtime. Thompson finally got the better of McCollum, keeping to the scouting report and forcing those same CJ shots that went in now going astray. With multiple rim protectors and the perimeter defense that’s still missing Shaun Livingston, the flip is switched.
This is as close as this edition’s Warriors have ever gotten to their peak performance. The defense suffocating at all angles. Every 3-pointer dropping from the three core guys from before, and Durant’s terrifying transition finishing ability throwing a wrench into every defensive scheme in the history of basketball. Then off the bench, they are throwing out their best perimeter stopper in Andre Iguodala and to cap it off, a finisher that they have never witnessed before in JaVale McGee.
To cap everything in scary finality, Stephen Curry is rediscovering his rhythmic MVP form in a postseason setting. Robbed last season of his explosiveness and comfort, the league is due for its comeuppance. Shoulder shimmying on the floor, Curry looks ready for his revenge and a place along the greatest in playoff history.
In Cleveland, they have been hoping the defensive switch would flip to get them to the NBA Finals without any issues. In Golden State, the light is blinding.