Where to even begin? For a game that means nearly nothing in October, there certainly was more drama, twists and turns, energy, and chippiness than seen in some Finals games. For a team that has lacked a certain type of exhilarating entertainment last year, and even a year before near the end of the 73-win season, it’s all seemed to come back in the season you would least likely to think would happen. The continuity, talent influx, and comfort got us believing in an 82-0 start. Instead, the Warriors are scrapping to 4-2, down 17 to the likes of the Washington Wizards at home. And that is fascinating theater.
The game itself performed like a play with three acts. It started with the sluggishness and normal weariness of Warriors games now. They had no consistency in the rotation nor did they with defensive communications. Without set lineups, nobody talked or moved together. It’s not a talent thing as at the end of year, they were great, so the only answer lies in the lack of chemistry. Even Klay Thompson was annoyed and demonstrative after a Kevin Durant turnover in transition. They wrapped up the first stanza with a 1-18 start from 3, with Stephen Curry a horrendous and rare 1-10 effort, with most of those wide open too.
Then the show began. Draymond Green swatted Bradley Beal, of course started yapping to his face, and then the closest thing you’ll see to a fight in the NBA happened. Kelly Oubre then ran over to punch not only Klay but his own point guard in the neck. That in itself was probably the craziest, dumbest, and most Washington Wizards thing to happen. A team that talks so much, acts so great, then totally falling on its face? Disgusting. Kerr talked after the game about how he shouldn’t have gotten the first tech. And the second one certainly never made sense when he didn’t start it for once. After his presser, Kerr watched the replay of the fight on a small TV in the room, shook his head in silence, and walked away. For Draymond, who said afterwards the NBA is singling him out on these technicals, it just comes with the territory. He got suspended, and perhaps cost, the Warriors the 2016 title. It doesn’t get any worse than that and all of this is on par with whom he is. As the entire Warriors management will tell you, this is the Draymond Greem they want, and the one everyone deserves.
The final stage starts with a burst of Omri Casspi and finishes with an astonishing flash of Kevon Looney. A player I have been very high on as the second-best bench guy on the Warriors came in out of necessity without Draymond and Shaun Livingston. A team this deep finally showed off just how great they can and will be. Casspi’s superb anticipation allows him to play the passing lanes on defense (with a steal in transition) and on offense cutting backdoor to the bucket and most importantly, canning a deep 3. He finished a team-high +17. For a team with 3 of the greatest shooters of all time, they don’t have much beyond that. After the game, Casspi said the word “fun” three times in one response to one question. He was amped. Then Kevon Looney came on in crunchtime (Peak Kerr), got a dunk off a PNR, stoned Wall at the rim, got another dunk for rim-running, and finished it off with another one showing off soft hands and much improved explosiveness. Steph tried his damn best to get the crowd running onto the floor after the and-one dunk and the atmosphere felt like the NBA Finals.
And so the Warriors came back from a 17-point deficit, stealing another game late, and proving that they can screw around as much as possible, without losing. How long can they keep this up? Who knows. But it is much too entertaining to perhaps hope the Warriors return to normalcy just yet.
There’s a ton tonight in-game to chew on so here you go.
1. Steph was awful. Not only did he not shoot well, 3-13 from distance, but the decision-making late in game was uncharasterically bad. He went isolation with Durant on fire, turned the ball over, and nearly lost it again late with the Warriors up just a point. He did, however, play good defense whenever he had to guard John Wall. And Wall, self-proclaimed best defensive point guard in the league, didn’t see much Steph at times throughout the game.
2. David West has been the Warriors’ best center this season and it has not been particularly close. He finished 8-9 from the field, and it would have been a perfect night if not for a late shot-clock heave. He even caught an alley oop from Draymond in transition. In what might be his last season, West looks ready to ride off into the sunset on a high note.
3. One more Casspi note, he deserves some playing time with consistent starters. He has the shooting, the length, the cutting, and the basketball IQ to get maximized. Imagine the shooting with a Steph, Klay, KD, and Casspi lineup to go with Draymond.
4. The rotations are a complete mess right now and Steve Kerr doesn’t seem to mind just yet. He’s purposely starting Looney at the 4 down 16 because he wants everyone ready. And for the criticism Kerr can take, him preparing Looney paid off in full down the stretch. The man can coach.
5. John Wall hit a 3 at the buzzer then started yapping to the crowd while Oubre literally skipped into the locker room. And the Wizards found a way to not back up their arrogance yet again. It’s becoming an old act. At least when the Warriors do it, they win. It’s almost time to put up or shut up.
6. The Warriors replay team was awesome, showing a zoomed-in slow motion video of Beal slapping Draymond’s neck, to the delight of the Warriors crowd.
7. And the crowd was fantastic with its indignant outrage when Draymond got ejected. The fans aren’t what they used to be at Oracle but on a Friday night in an intense playoff atmosphere, they showed out.
8. Durant was a monster, steadying the Warriors in the bench lineups and taking over down the stretch. He deserved the ball down the stretch way more as Steph and him are still trying to figure out how to handle late-game situations.
9. How many points do the Warriors have to go down before we really start worrying about a loss?