Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Warriors Advance En Masse

Yes,Yes, There Was
The history books will say this was Warriors 4, Rockets 1, with Houston SG James Harden committing an NBA record number of turnovers in the clincher. But what happened here was just one of those reminders that sports is not cinema, and the story does not have to be what you'd expect to be compelling.

The first two games of this series was medicinal grade hoop, with Harden playing out of his mind, only to lose both games, the last of which ended with the ball in his hands, and unable to get a shot off. Game Three in Houston saw the Warriors play their best game of the playoffs and end most doubt, in a game that was just a "Sweet Georgia Brown" soundtrack away from being full clowning. Game Four saw MVP Stephen Curry get hurt, Harden turn in his third of four great games, and the Rockets getting a lead and holding it all night.

So Game Five was expected to be the end of the series, and there were so many ways it would happen, really. Curry would have another one of those Good Lord nights from the field. Klay Thompson, quiet until Game Four, would capitalize on what he figured out in the last game and do the honors. The Warrior bench would put the game out of reach, as they had done so many times this year. Houston would quit, the way they did in any number of big playoff losses this year.

Instead... none of that happened. At all.

Curry couldn't hit from distance at his usual level of insanity. Thompson committed five fouls, then took a Trevor Ariza running knee to the temple, and was unable to return due to persistent bleeding. Andrew Bogut was scoreless, though far from poor. Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala stepped up and played fine, but no single Dub player was the reason why the Rockets' season ended tonight. Houston kept making mini-runs and refusing to go away, even though C Dwight Howard continued his field test of how having a full load of technical fouls while being A Superstar just means you get away with more at the close.

No, this was pretty much on the Rockets, and most specifically Harden, just getting turned into mulch by the Warriors' pace and quality depth. When you are getting worked like a speed bag by fun retread G Leandro Barbosa, and when 9-team backup PG Shaun Livingston and injury-riddled back-up C Festus Ezeli are dispatching you with prejudice, that's a depth issue. The Dub depth is crazy great.

Depth in basketball doesn't get a lot of love. That's because most people live in the lEast, and have watched LeBron James drag increasingly unlikely starting teammates with him to the Finals. (Seriously, he's doing it with Knicks this year. It's insane.) But James lost to depth last year in the 10-deep Spurs, and the smart money is going to say it's going to happen again.

The Rocket starters were not the problem for them. Sure, they weren't better than the Dubs, and might not even have been with their missing PG and PF. But Harden had absolutely nothing tonight, and given his minutes and his role, they had no other options but to keep him out there and hope that he somehow found it again.

Will this happen again to James and the Cavs in a week? That's a topic for another day, and given that there is a full week of time off, there's no reason to rush into that. But the point should be made that the Rockets beat the Clippers because they had a better bench, and the Warriors ended the Rockets early because *they* had a better bench. It's not something that gets a lot of play, but that doesn't make it any less accurate.

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