OAKLAND - Warriors in five games.
All credit to the Houston Rockets. They came back from the dead against the L.A. Clippers. I mean on the doorstep of the hereafter. Getting fitted for the pine box. The Rockets showed great courage, almost being eliminated in Game 6 but fighting back, fighting against what appeared sure elimination and winning that game, and then winning Game 7.
Just great. Praiseworthy. Astonishing. But compare them to the Warriors.
The Warriors never have been in danger in these playoffs. Not one time. Sure, they lost two games to Memphis and had to make a miraculous comeback against poor New Orleans in one game. But they were never in danger of being dead. Or of being almost dead. Or even a little dead. And, certainly, they never faced elimination. Their playoff record is 8-2. That’s some record.
The Rockets have two great players. “Great” is no exaggeration. James Harden and Dwight Howard. Harden is at the Stephen Curry level. Please don’t argue.
He drives the lane with that goofy beard that looks like a shrub digging into his face, and he gazes around like he has periscope eyes, and he makes the sweetest pass you ever saw to a perimeter shooter or he keeps the ball and continues on, continues slowly — slow through the lane is the rule — and he draws a foul and he lays in the ball and walks to the foul line where he lives during games. It’s like he rents the foul line from airbnb.
“Harden gets a lot of (foul) calls by swinging his arms through and looking for contact,” Andrew Bogut said at Monday’s practice. “We’re going to try not to strip him at all and just make him finish over the top of us.”
“Over the top of us” means over Bogut and Draymond Green. It also means the Warriors plan to keep their hands to themselves. Leave Beardo alone as he drives the hoop. If that’s even possible. He’s a magnet for drawing fouls. For scoring. For taking over games.
The Warriors will not cover him with one man. Can’t do it. They’ll start with Klay Thompson. But throw in Andre Iguodala and Leandro Barbosa and Harrison Barnes. Change the look. Change the body against Harden. Harden still will score like crazy.
And then there’s center Dwight Howard. His shoulders are giant-size. Looks like he’s wearing shoulder pads underneath his skin. He will rebound, and grab lob passes and crash the ball through the hoop. A living breathing load.
“He lives in the paint much like myself,” Bogut said. “He doesn’t drift out to the perimeter a lot. He’s always positioning for offensive rebounds. Very similar to Z-Bo (the Grizzlies Zach Randolph) in the way he plays. Obviously, ten times more athletic than Z-Bo. He gets pretty rough out there. He gets frustrated sometimes and I get frustrated. There’s elbows flying. That’s what it is, especially in the playoffs with two big fellows. I don’t anticipate it being worse than Z-Bo and (Marc) Gasol, but you never know.”
So, sure, the Rockets pose problems. It’s just that the Warriors beat them every time they played this season — four in a row. All the Warriors players — I mean all — say the regular season doesn’t matter. The playoffs are a whole new ballgame and all that. Here’s Bogut quoting the company line, a necessary company line. The Warriors would be saps to take Houston lightly.