“I don’t think they believed.”
There aren’t many things you can say to an athlete, or anyone that is competitive, that is as singularly insulting as what Gregg Popovich described his San Antonio Spurs after their shellacking in Oracle Arena. You can tell me I can’t shoot, you can let me know I can’t dribble, and you can even roast me for not being able to math. But the central most important need of a person is their ability to hope, to believe in themselves, and as a team, a uniform understanding. What the Golden State Warriors did on Tuesday night proved an introduction, supporting evidence, and the conclusion for that statement.
This was also going to be the regression blowout – though not to the extent of the largest blowout in GSW history since 1948 – that the Warriors were going to put on any team. After the sluggish opening to the series, they lucked their way to the 1-0 lead. But they are the better team, more talented, and when both locked in, the Spurs don’t stand a chance. So despite Leonard’s absence, the Warriors would have made mincemeat out of any basketball team, present and past, in that arena.
The Warriors feasted from the moment the game started, all the way from the top of the roster to the bottom. Draymond Green had his usual stalwart all around performance, Klay Thompson found parts of his shot back, Kevin Durant was the consistent offensive backbone, Ian Clark backdoored, David West muscled his way back to the rim, and most impressively, Patrick McCaw showed the flash that has Warriors fans envisioning a blend between Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala.
McCaw dropped 3 3s en route to 18 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, and 3 steals. After the game, Steph said he’d play a bit more in this series, perhaps foretelling a longer Iguodala absence. Combine that with Livingston minutes restriction and Clark’s limited upside, McCaw has a little time and space to mature on the brightest stage in the NBA.
I’m not here to make this gamer about McCaw but the handle in tight spaces, the first step, the vertical leap, and the smoothness around the rim are something to behold for a rookie in his first taste of the postseason. He might not become a superstar but he has the type of All-Star potential that was unseen in Klay, Steph, and Draymond.
For everything that went right, perhaps the scariest aspect of the Warriors during this postseason run is Stephen Curry’s rise back up to the MVP. Curry dropped 29 points in 31 minutes on just 13 shots to go along with 7 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals. And to exacerbate the concerns with guarding a seemingly unguardable sniper, Steph has now incorporated James Harden-level foul schemes. It isn’t aesthetically pleasing basketball but it makes an unstoppable offensive force completely unfair.
And now the Warriors shift to San Antonio with a team that is getting contributions from the bench, a defense with a gameplan that’s fit to shut down a Spurs attack predicated on two players, and an offense now featuring two rolling MVPs and a warming up Klay Thompson. Game 3 is on Saturday night and that might be the game that decides whether the Warriors are going to sweep their way into the NBA Finals.