Pre-Game: Passing

Last night my mother in-law died.

She had been taken to the Emergency Room during the first quarter of Game One. That was all the information I could get. The rest was drowned out by the cheers in Mission Street Sports Bar when Klay hit a three.

How can you deal with issues of life and death in the middle of Game One ? And what a game!.

Most of the (endless) talk has been about the last minute of regulation when the refs reversed a call in the Dubs favor, and JR Smith pulled a JR Smith.  By now, you’ve seen it a thousand times. If not, you’re probably not reading this.

The Chron’s Scott Ostler came back from Hawaii to pen a couple head-scratching paeans to Steph Curry. I suppose this is what happens when spend a couple weeks smoking “Nellie Kush.” Steph had a good Game One, but the series has just begun and no one bottles up Steph better than the Cavs.

Steph got loose in Game One because the Dubs got back to passing the ball . The Dubs pass the ball more than 300 times a game, a concept considered other-worldly when Steve Kerr took over. A defense like Cleveland, essentially tanks with long arms, gets in the way, disrupting the action.  When that happens, the simple solution has been to give KD the ball to go one-on-one. An attractive Plan B. Until it doesn’t work. 

If the Dubs are going to win, they have to keep moving, keep passing.

Although the flow which had been lost in Houston began to return in Game One, there were still far too many isolation sets for KD that did not end well. 

My mother-in-law did not care much for the Dubs or the NBA. But she did like to talk about LeBron when I visited. She was very competitive.

First Half: Delirium

I start off at Delirium. It fits. Mission icon Carlos Santana plays the anthem (he doesn’t kneel). This is Santana’s fourth appearance in the Finals. He’s 3-0.


The energy in Delirium is low.

Not in Oracle. The Dubs start instant energy center, JaVale McGee. In less than fifteen seconds you see why. JavVale sets a (slip) screen for Curry. The Cavs switch defenders, but JaVale runs right past both.  Steph fires a pass, and JaVale throws down a monster dunk.


Thirty seconds later, they do it again. Oracle goes crazy. The Delirium? Not so crazy. I cross to Giordano’s.

The two teams go back and forth dunking. “Looks like the All-Star game,” says the old guy standing next to me.

LeBron does his LeBron thing, but and the Dubs are trying to make it tough on him. So what does he do? Find an open teammate.


The Dubs race out to a 9 point lead, which the Cavs cut to 5 by midway through the quarter.

When James drives again, and scores again, the lead is cut to two. But Curry who had just drained a 3, responds with a 2. Shaun Livingston makes a couple of shots, and at the end of the quarter, the Dubs lead 32-28

“How long has it been since they played a first quarter that good?” says the woman at the bar. “It kind of worries me.”

Second Quarter: Gestalt

Gestalt is the ex-Macondo coffee house. If you walk all the way back where few fans gather, you can still pick up a scent of the old magic. When I first came to SF, I stayed in a flat a couple floors up.

KD picks up the scoring for the Dubs with 5 quick points.  He looks like the old KD. Remarkably smooth, taking shots in the flow and in rhythm, not trying to force shots.

George Hill and Kevin Love keep picking up the Cavs, as LeBron goes uncharacteristically quiet. Not true. He’s never quiet. If these two keep hitting 3s and getting under the basket, it’s going to be a long game.

The Dubs offense has slowed down somewhat, but the defense picks up, not only stopping James but the others as well.


JaVale McGee comes back in the game and the dunkathon returns.

Behind LeBron, the Cavs cut the Dubs lead to 6, but with two minutes left, Curry sinks another 3, and a minute later, another.

“Yes!” I shout.  A guy at the bar turns to me. “I like your passion.” We fist bump.  “You must be from Italy,” he says. “Paisanos.”

The Dubs hold the Cavs to an 18 point quarter and lead 59-46 at the half.

Halftime

I wanted to check out the mood in Dolores Park, but I’m taking the red eye after the game and still have to pack. Speaking of Dolores Park, it is featured in one of YouTube’s ubiquitous commercials. Dolores Park on national TV? Am I hallucinating?

Third Quarter: The 500 Club

I started going to the 500 Club for the 3rd quarter during Game 6 against Houston. Ever since, I’ve returned and the Dubs have been turning in dominant 3rd quarter performances. Is there a correlation?

The bar is packed as it has been for the games, but the crowd is uneven. A lot of bandwagon fans and posers. The intense concentration, noticeable during other games, is largely missing.

The Cavs draw first blood with a Tristan Thompson jumper. Then Kevin Love sinks not one, but two 3s in the space of just over a minute, cutting the lead to 7. Hopes for a blowout fade.

“Hoping,” texts a friend, “is never enough.”

For a while, it’s a 3-point standoff, as KD, Hill, Klay and LeBron hit 3s!

The Dubs don’t dominate this 3rd quarter. The solid second quarter defense leaks as the Cavs (LeBron) create open shots. And makes them. They cut the lead to 5 points after another LeBron drive.

Klay Thompson answers with a 3.


With less than 5 seconds, KD feeds David West, not known for long range, in the corner. West shoots.


The Dubs lead by 10 going into the 4th, but they will need to tighten the defense and keep scoring if they are going to pull this one out.

Nobody at The 500 Club thinks it’s over.

Fourth Quarter: The 500 Club

Two guys are smoking on 17th Street.

“Ever smoke Nellie Kush?”

“Yeah. What is it?”

“Weed grown in Hawaii by the old Dub coach Don Nelson.”

“What does it do?”

“It makes really small things seem like a big deal.”

LeBron opens the final quarter with a 3.

Steph responds with two 3s

LeBron drives around Curry and dunks unmolested. The Dubs call time.

Back on the floor, Steph’s got the ball and he’s dancing with Kevin Love, pulling him further and further away from the basket. With the shot clock winding down, Steph throws up a prayer.

I catch myself looking up. Nah. She would never  . . .


It goes down!  Oracle erupts. The 500 Club erupts.

LeBron makes a couple free throws.

Steph again pairs off with Love. He passes to Green when Love stops him. Green whips the ball right back to Curry who kept moving into the corner.  He shoots as Love fouls him. Steph goes down! The ball goes down! And the Cavs are on life support.

LeBron misses a short one, then misses a layup.

Steph passes to KD for sweet and powerful dunk! 


And with that, the game goes into garbage time.

Post-Game:  The view from 30,000 feet

A convincing win for the Dubs. They played one of their most complete games of the playoff season. Does that mean the Dubs have the series locked down?  Haha.

Guess I’ll ask Ostler for some Nellie Kush. Steph made a record nine 3-point shots. And welcome back, KD, who looked, convincingly, like KD. Not only was he in synch and in the flow of the offense, he was a force on defense and fought for rebounds.

Although hobbling in practice, and unsure if he’d play, Klay Thompson showed no ill-effects of the ankle JR Smith bruised in Game One.


A sudden patch of turbulence, and a new blinking star over the Rockies. I think I hear her voice; “Nice game.”

Passing over Denver, I look down. From up here, it all looks like a game.