Barber: Warriors steal Rockets' souls in 118-113 win
HOUSTON — The Warriors stole the Rockets’ souls Friday night. Sucked their auras into a bottle, stuck a cork in it, tossed the bottle into Buffalo Bayou and skipped away to the airport for a satisfying flight back to Oakland.
Golden State’s 118-113, series-clinching win in Game 6 at Toyota Center established two major NBA truisms. One, the Warriors remain the team to beat — despite the temporary loss of superstar Kevin Durant, and despite their own recurring malaise. And two, the Rockets’ multi-year plan to topple the champions has been a failure.
“This one’s going to leave a mark,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said after the game. “This is not just something you get over with. I’m definitely not going to get over it in the press conference, or tomorrow, or the next night. This one hurts.”
D’Antoni added: “It’s almost like, in a boxing match, you have to knock the champion out, and we didn’t knock them out.”
The opposite emotion was on display in the hallway outside the visitors’ locker room after the game, as Draymond Green waited outside to great each individual Warrior who made his way from the court. The Warriors were happy, but it was more than that. They were defiantly happy. Their chest bumps were particularly thumping, their exchanges more profane than usual.
When Green came to the podium a bit later, someone asked him about his team’s “big celebration.”
“I don’t think we really had a big celebration,” Green said. “But this one felt good. I’m not gonna sit here and sugarcoat it, like, ‘Oh, yeah, we’re used to winning.’ It’s obviously a great team we just played, on the road, just losing Kevin, Steph with zero points in the first half. And to get this win? That one felt amazing.”
It was a sentiment repeated by several Warriors.
Noting that the Rockets have taken aim at Golden State over the past few years isn’t speculation. It’s on the record. Their general manager, the analytics-oriented Daryl Morey, has made no secret of the Rockets’ quest.
“It’s the only thing we think about,” Morey told ESPN’s Ryen Russillo in December of 2018. “I think I’m not supposed to say that, but we’re basically obsessed with ‘How do we beat the Warriors?’ ... We calculated it. It’s like 90% if we’re gonna win a title, we’ve gotta obviously beat the Warriors at some point. So we’re extremely focused on that. A lot of our signings and what we do during the year is based on that.”
That wasn’t Morey’s only foray into the topic. And yes, the Warriors took notice.
“All year — I mean, for years now, but definitely this year, like we’ve listened to them all year talk about how they’re waiting to beat us, and they want to run it back, and Chris Paul was hurt,” Green said Friday. “And you gotta give ’em some credit, though. It takes a lot of, umm … I don’t know if I can use the word I want to use, so let me think of one to fill it in. Takes a lot of heart to just kind of throw it out there, like, ‘Yeah, we’re beating them.’ Because it adds pressure … There’s not many people that would be willing to say, ‘Yeah, we’re going after them.’ Like, you just kind of quietly do it.”