USA Today Images

The Champs Battle Back And Finish

Houston just didn’t have quite enough.

May 29, 2018 - 9:43 am

And that is why the Golden State Warriors are the champs: because they can do what they did last night. Game 7, on the road, could not have gotten off to a worse start for Golden State and couldn’t have been better for Houston. Klay Thompson got into early foul trouble. The Warriors were a disaster with the ball, they were missing free throws, unorganized on offense, and a total mess on defense while getting murdered on the offensive glass. I have never seen a Steve Kerr coached team that out of sorts. And it was happening on the biggest stage at the worst possible time. I had no idea who or what the hell I was watching. I just knew it was the defending champs. 

Houston, on the other hand, was killing it. And James Harden was in double digits early, abusing the Warriors matador dee and getting to the rack any time he wanted. Plus,

Eric Gordon was killing the game and that barn was loud as hell. Saying someone wanted it more is one of the lamest thing ever, but in the first half, the Rockets just wanted it more. The Warriors couldn’t match Houston’s aggression, energy or sense urgency in the first half. They looked like a crew that was about to shock the world: about to knock out the defending champs even without Chris Paul.

They were playing like they were minutes away from the Finals and the Warriors were playing like it was mid-January. Kevin Durant was a ghost, Draymond was clanking open looks, and all in all, they looked like a disaster. No wonder Steve Kerr was so angry in his in-game interview.

Houston dominated the boards. 50/50 balls became 90/10 balls for the Rockets. And they jumped on every lazy move from Golden State like this pass that James Harden picked off.

And just when you thought Golden State was getting back into it and might cut Houston’s lead to single digits by halftime, Durant missed a jumper and then this happened.  

A fitting end to a terrible half for the Warriors. Shaky offense leads to a Houston rebound and an easy two. Golden State had just played their worst half possible at the worst possible time. The Rockets were full of swag and feeling it and now just two quarter away from finishing the bully they were created to destroy, it just seemed like it was too much to ask for the Golden State Warriors to have another Golden State Warrior third quarter. But they did.

They outscored Houston 33-15 in the third and turned an 11-point deficit into a 7-point lead. In 12 minutes. I knew it was coming. You knew it was coming. Worst of all, Houston knew it was coming and they were helpless to stop it. 

Kevin Durant got hot and Steph Curry got even hotter, with 14 points in the quarter, including 11 straight at one point

You can’t flip the switch. That’s what we’ve been told for years. But Golden State did it again in the third quarter. They went into halftime, put their hands on a big switch and changed it from “GARBAGE” to “ELITE” and went from playing the worst basketball you’ve ever seen to some of the best you’ll ever see in a matter of moments. 

And it’s not like they haven’t done it before. They did the exact same thing 48 hours earlier. In other words, if you liked Game 6, then Game 7 was the perfect sequel. Same action, just slightly different plotline. 

And the same brutal ending for Houston. Gerald Green was nearly speechless after the game, but he said it best after the game: “heartbroken.” And when asked to use more than one word he said, “Heart. Broken.”

That’s the truth. They were up 15. They had a chance to finish off the champs, but they couldn’t do it. And I’m not going to crack them for it. They played their asses off for seven games. 

They could’ve gone into the tank after the Game 3 blowout. If they’d wanted to quit, they could’ve done it right then and already been about 96 holes into their offseason right now. But they didn’t. They battled back in Games 4 and 5, they were up 3-2 in the series and had two good looks to finish it off, even without Chris Paul. They had Golden State on the ropes, they just couldn’t finish them off. 

Because they just didn’t have quite enough. Because that’s how hard it is to beat Golden State. It takes everything you have for 48 minutes over seven games. 

There’s a line that was great, but has been quoted into oblivion, but it is very applicable to last night: ‘You come at the king, you best not miss.’ 

And Houston missed. A lot. 27 straight threes at one point. 0 for 27 is going to sting for a long, long time. Don’t get it twisted, just because they played their hearts out and have a ton to be proud of, doesn’t mean 0 for 27 won’t hurt. Because it will. Forever. And it should. Oh for 27?!

And lot of them were good looks. The kind of looks that got them to 65 regular season wins and Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. But when they needed them most, they just didn’t go down. They simply gassed out. They ran out of juice.

That’s what it takes to beat the champs. You have to finish them, because if you don’t, they will find a way to finish you, and that’s exactly what Golden State did. That’s what happens when you have Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green on the same team. Your margin for error is so much bigger and the leads you can erase are so much larger. 

And let that soak in for a second. Houston is a team with two future Hall of Famers and a bunch of great pieces around them. They won 65 games and were built specifically to beat Golden State. They went down one Hall of Famer and still blew the doors off Golden State in the first half of Games 6 and 7. 

But the Warriors battled back. That’s what champions do. They finish. And either you finish them, and I mean really, really finish them. Like blow them out, run a stake through them, and shatter them into a thousand pieces, or else they will find a way to finish you. And they did again.