Pre-Game: Triumph of the (Warriors’) Will
We haven’t seen a situation like this since Game 7 in 2016, when the Warriors flatlined the fourth quarter to lose the game, series and championship to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In the wake of that loss, the team brought in Kevin Durant. Problem solved.
Or was it? What if the problem in 2016 was not offensive strategy, an injured Steph Curry, or lacking a player like KD who can go one-on-one with the best?
What if the team lacks something more elusive, yet more powerful? What if, when pressured by tough defenders in pressure situations, the Dubs lack the will to win?
Will, not desire. Not which team simply wants it more, but which team will take it?
Sounds absurd, given how much they’ve won. But because of their talent and their teamwork, this version of the Dubs, the KD Dubs, have never been pushed, never been tested. Not at this level, and not by as good a team as Houston.
Winning down the stretch, Houston proved its mettle the past two games.
Dubs, the ball is in your court.
First Quarter: Giordanos
Dubs? Dubs? Are you there? Hello?
The game has started, but where are the Dubs? No one scores for two minutes before KD sinks a layup. Two minutes later, Houston’s up 13-6. Timeout.
Giordanos is buzzing. A WTF kind of buzz? A leftover buzz from Carnaval?
Without Chris Paul, Houston has butter fingers. They can’t hold onto the ball. But the Warriors have an identity crisis.
“Who are you?” the guy wearing a Thompson jersey screams at one of the big screens.
Good question. The Dubs don’t seem themselves. But who are they?
“Whenever I watch the Warriors, they lose,” says my brother. Now he tells me.
Houston plays a tough pressure defense, and though the score doesn’t show it, the Dubs look like they’re wilting. Suddenly the score shows it.
Houston gets wide-open looks. You can see Warriors out of position, waving their arms at one another, shaking their heads, looking up for divine intervention. James Harden, buries a 3 from deep, then deeper, then beneath Lake Merrit.
Joining him in a threesome are Tucker and Gordon. Ugh.
What was a tie game with five minutes left in the quarter has exploded into a 39-21 score at the quarter’s end.
The Rockets strike first, and they strike with a vengeance.
The Dubs look dazed and beaten, like Sonny Liston after getting knocked around by Cassius Clay (who would become Muhammad Ali later that night).
Have they already packed for a summer in the Hamptons?
Second Quarter: Bar San Pancho
My brother observes half the crowd at Giordanos not cheering for the Warriors. What do they have to cheer about? How about Klay Thompson opening the second quarter with a 3?
Although it seems the right Dubs have finally found their way to the gym, and begin to play defense, their offense is still on the bus.
That doesn’t bother the crowd at Bar San Pancho. I’ve noticed this optimism before. Even though no one is wearing a “We Believe” T-shirt, and the Warriors are fumbling about like a high school team on prom night, the crowd remains upbeat, positive.
Which drives me and my brother nuts. But he orders the tacos. We endure.
Klay and KD nail 3s. Cashing in on turnovers and defensive stops, the Dubs cut the lead to 9 points.
KD doesn’t hog the ball, but there are times you wish he would.
The two teams trade buckets and turnovers. The Rockets look like the Warriors did in the last game: throwing the ball away, getting stripped and blocked. But Gordon and Tucker hit 3s to close the half putting the Rockets up 61-51.
My brother likes the tacos.
Third Quarter: The 500 Club
Over the past two games, both dispiriting defeats, the Dubs played their best when I was at The 500 Club.
Before I get there, I hear a cheer from inside. Then another. And another!! Klay has opened the quarter with a 3. Followed by a vicious KD dunk. Followed by another Klay 3. Suddenly it’s a two-point game.
The crowd at the 500 club goes nuts. Actually, not the crowd, only the nine or ten fans. The others look up when someone cheers. Otherwise, they are not nuts.
During the Rockets time out, my brother declares the Warriors can’t sustain this push.
He’s wrong. Very wrong.
Draymond Green blocks a Clint Capella layup, and Steph swishes a 3. The Dubs take the lead.
Harden and Klay trade 3s. Draymond Green buries a turnaround jump shot. Gerald Green shoots from downtown. With five minutes to go, Houston is up by 4.
The Warriors call timeout.
When they come back on the court, KD makes a jump shot. Draymond Green blocks James Harden’s jump shot. KD misses a 3. Harden misses a 3.
Then Klay makes an open 3. And the Dubs have the lead.
Forty seconds later, Steph nails a 3 from deep, then another.
What a quarter! The Warriors, defending NBA champions, have arrived, outscoring Houston 33-16.
Fourth Quarter: The 500 Club
My brother remains certain the Dubs will lose because he’s watching. He tries to convince two women sitting next to us, but they smile politely and watch the game. They exude an air of confidence, having just come from Bar San Pancho.
Nick Young (and his alter-ego Swaggy P) stuff James Harden cold. Not once. Not twice. Three times! Neither team scores for 2 minutes. Then Young feeds Shawn Livingston and the dam breaks.
Over the next 3 minutes, Klay and Steph splash the Rockets 15-2.
Houston throws in the towel. They need to rest their players for Game 7.
Post-Game: Will the real Golden State Warriors please stand up?
A sigh of relief on 16th street. The Dubs showed up. All the Dubs we’ve come to know so well this year:
The good Dubs and the bad Dubs.
The stagnant Dubs and the flowing Dubs.
The sweet and sour shooting Dubs.
The dialed-in Dubs and the tuned-out Dubs.
The Dubs who play the “beautiful game” and the Dubs who play around with the “beautiful people.”
Game 6 was also an MRI on the Houston Rockets. Once again their vaunted offense has failed to crack 100. Harden and Gordon grew visibly tired in the second half.
(Why does LeBron never tire? Never get injured?)
Without Chris Paul, the Rockets defense had trouble keeping up with the Warriors, once the Warriors got moving. And their offense couldn’t take care of the ball.
Chris Paul will play Monday night. For how long and how well, who knows? But he will play. Will Andre Iguodala?
Game 7, Monday at 6. The Dubs emphatically announced tonight they will be attending.
Which Dubs, no one knows. Or if they’ll make it to Houston on time.