No offense to Andrew Bogut, whose courage and former talent I admire, but it’s no coincidence that with him out, Stephen Curry dropped 47 on the Lakers in Staples Center.
Just as it’s no coincidence that with him out, Stephen Curry dropped 54 on the Knicks in Madison Square garden.
It’s no coincidence that the Warriors pushed the tempo relentlessly, breaking out of their pattern of slow first quarter starts, and generated 116 points on the game.
It’s no coincidence that, back again to the style of play that won them so many mid-season games, the style of play Stephen Curry and David Lee were designed by God — and selected by Don Nelson — to play, that the Warriors were poised to win this game.
If only David Stern would have allowed it.
Cheated: It was obvious to even the casual eye that the long hand of David Stern reached out and touched the refs in this game. The difference in revenue to the league between the Lakers and Utah in the first round of the playoffs can be counted in the tens of millions. The Warriors got shafted, hard. A 50-16 free throw disparity. The Lakers got nearly as many free throws in the fourth quarter (14) as the Warriors got in the game.
Kobe gets breathed on in this game, foul. Klay Thompson gets mugged on the other end, no call. That call that fouled out Festus Ezeli, when he was hooked by Metta? Never seen it before. Not even a high school ref blows that call.
And par for the course when the Lakers are in danger. The infamous Lakers-Kings Game Six. The Pippen-Wallace Blazers series. The Fisher buzzer beater against the Spurs. The Brent Barry clubbing. Every series against the Spurs, in fact.
I’ve written a lot about this aspect of David Stern’s NBA in past threads. And I’m not alone in my belief that the League cheats in big games. A former ref, himself a convicted cheater, believes it. Phil Jackson and Mark Cuban are on record as believing it, as well as countless NBA players, including Tracy McGrady and Charles Barkley. Bill Simmons and Michael Wilbon are on record. And so is Ralph Nader.
You saw it in this game. And you are going to see it again this season if you happen to watch Memphis v. Clippers in the first round. Or especially if the Grizzlies miraculously survive to face the Thunder in the second round. And you are going to see it when Denver plays the Thunder in the Conference Finals.
Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin are the new Kobes of the Western Conference.
(By the way, do you remember a couple of years ago when Stern selected Blake Griffin for his first All-Star appearance over LaMarcus Aldridge, despite the fact that the Clippers were in last place with a horrible record, and the Blazers were headed to the playoffs? That should clue you in to the value Stern places on integrity, and what he is capable of doing on behalf of the NBA owners to maximize their revenue.)
So live with it, Warriors fans. You’ll take it, and you’ll like it.
The Warriors’ Defense: The ignorati will point to the Laker’s 118 points, and state that the Warriors’ defense was bad in this game.
I will point to the point-differential, which was a two point loss to a desperate team in their home building. That could have, and should have been an 8 point win.
I will note that defense must be regarded in the context of style of play, and that giving up 97 points when walking the ball up the court will lose you just as many games as giving up 118 when playing Nellieball.
I thought the Warriors defense — excepting, of course, Harrison Barnes — was excellent in this game.
They did enough to win.
The Andrew Bogut Myth: That didn’t take long, did it? After an MRI, Bogut’s ankle “sprain” has now been upgraded to a “bone bruise”. And he’s now set to have his ankle examined by his microfracture surgeon.
I hope none of the regular readers of this blog believed that “sprain” story. We’ll leave that to the readers of the bloggers that go out to dinner with Bob Myers.
Stephen Curry: Once again, no offense to Andrew Bogut, but I’m grateful that Curry has again been freed to play his up-tempo game. And I’m grateful that Mark Jackson is once again empowering him to play the way he played for Don Nelson in his rookie season.
The way God meant him to play.
David Lee: He didn’t stop Gasol, but neither does anyone in this league — except Kobe Bryant. The injured, aged Kobe needed to lean on Pau in the last few games, and you saw the result.
But to the extent that he was utilized in the Warriors offense, David Lee matched Pau blow for blow. He gave as good as he got.
Big time performance from a player who “struggles against length.”
Klay Thompson: You saw it on this night, didn’t you? The All-Star in the making.
What a fabulous floor game. The 7 assists. A genuine point-forward.
The driving left-handed finish over Gasol.
The Curry-like ability to generate steals.
He got a lot of help in his defense on Kobe. First, from the fact that Kobe moved like a small forward these past few months, virtually unable to drive. And second, from the fact that the Warriors double-teamed almost as soon as Kobe put the ball on the floor.
But he didn’t get any help from the refs.
The Brand: 4 points on 1-6 shooting. He did get 6 rebounds, which is better than his average by half. But then bagels across the board.
Did you see Mark Jackson attempt to iso him against Steve Blake, ala Klay Thompson? Barnes pounded the ball into a baseline double team, then hoisted an awful turnaround brick. The gulf between Barnes and Thompson as basketball players is as wide as Bob Fitzgerald is annoying.
Can someone tell me why Barnes got 29 minutes in this game, and Richard Jefferson and Draymond Green got zero? Are any of our fabulous Warriors beat reporters on the trail of that story?
I mean, the rookie of the year race is over.
Festus Ezeli and Andris Biedrins: It will go completely unnoticed, but both did a great job of coming out to hedge the pick and roll, and helping Klay Thompson contain Kobe.
And they both did a great job running the floor, and helping Curry and this Warriors team play the style they were built by Don Nelson to play.
Mark Jackson: I’m a fan of Mark Jackson this season. I think he’s done a fine job handling a nearly impossible situation, trying to coach two different teams with two different styles. And walking the political tightrope that entails.
He got it right in this game again. Pushing the tempo relentlessly. Freeing Stephen Curry to be a superstar. Cruelly punishing the mismatches, ala Nellie: isoing Klay Thompson against Steve Blake, and David Lee against Antawn Jamison.
Right up until the last play of the game. Look, Stephen Curry is a cold-blooded closer. One of the best one-on-one basketball players in history, with an all-world handle, all-world shooting ability, and unlimited range. One of the clutchest players in NCAA history, and so far in his short NBA career.
Jackson has to iso Curry at the end of the game. Stephen Curry has to be allowed to go one-on-one at the top of the key. Particularly against the guy he’d burned all night long, Steve Blake.
I love high picks for Curry during the course of the game. Argued for them earlier in the season, in fact. And the high pick was executed perfectly, with Curry beating the Dwight Howard blitz with a perfect pass, getting Carl Landry a wide-open shot.
That is Stephen Curry’s shot.
P.S.: And no offense to Mark Jackson’s religious beliefs, but they didn’t do the Warriors any favors in their handling of the refs in this game.