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Steph Is Back

Series Over.

May 21, 2018 - 11:18 am

Forget the stat line. Forget the score. Forget the numbers. Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals can be summed up in two words: Steph back. 

Steph Curry had not been Steph Curry for the first two games of this series. Was it the injury? Was it something else? Whatever it was, the Warriors said it was just a matter of time. And that time was the third quarter last night.

Golden State led by 11 at halftime, then Curry and KD combined for 10 quick points, Golden State goes up by 21 and it looked like it was over. But it wasn’t. Houston climbed back in, they cut it to 13 and then it happened. Steph went off.

Put James Harden in a blender and hit him with this:

Then dropped a shimmy.

And then blew past Trevor Ariza and hit a floater and capped it off by yelling “this is my bleeping house.” 

It was an incredible moment. After three days of being asked his injury, his defense, and his poise, he gave the whole world the answer. Warriors’ fans went ballistic. 

So did Steph’s mom, but for a different reason. He told ESPN: "She already sent me two home videos, showing me the clip and playing it back. She was telling me how I need to wash my mouth out, saying to wash it out with soap. It's a message I’ve heard before."

And added: "She's right. I gotta do better. I can't talk like that."

Well, okay. I guess that’s pretty much the only thing he could improve on from that third quarter. Because everything else was straight fire. 

And when Steph wasn’t going off, KD was continuing to go off, and Nick Young was on the bench, miming phone calls for help. That was a Steph Curry game, a Golden State Warrior game, and a Houston Rocket nightmare. 

If you’re Houston, I’m not sure what’s more worrisome  – Steph going off, KD continuing to go off, or the fact that Golden State absolutely locked down defensively. That’s maybe the biggest problem. Well, that, and the fact that everyone is now asking, are the Rockets going to go into the tank. Again. Is James Harden going to no show when it matters most. Again. Will Harden, Chris Paul and Mike D’Antoni get rapped for disappearing on the big stage. Again. 

It’s not that Golden State just dropped a buck twenty-six on you, it’s that you finished with 85. It’s not just that Steph Curry set the building on fire, it’s that Draymond Green was putting out every fire on defense. It’s not just that Golden State’s offense was doing anything it wanted, it’s that their defense was focused and locked-in. 

And their defensive leader summed up their attitude.

They felt a little threatened and they responded in Game 3. That’s the switch being flipped. They committed just one foul on James Harden when he was driving.

That’s what makes Golden State so scary. They can win without their two-time MVP playing his best. They can win without a perennial all-star like Klay Thompson playing his best. And the Rockets still can’t do a damn thing about Kevin Durant who pretty much does whatever the hell he wants, whenever he wants, against them. The Warriors simply have a margin for error unlike anyone else. 

But Houston doesn’t. Not against Golden State. For Houston to win, they need James Harden to be at his best. And Chris Paul to be at his best. And neither were. Nowhere near it. And even if  they get what they need from Harden and Paul, and they didn’t. But even if they do, they also  need some combination of Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza and P.J. Tucker and Clint Capela to be at their best. And then maybe they can beat Golden State. 

I’m not saying this series is over. I am saying Houston, after their most humiliating postseason beatdown ever, is now in a must-win situation in Game 4. And they have to win in a building where Golden State hasn’t lost in the playoffs since 2016.

I’m also saying that Golden State has lost just four playoff games since Kevin Durant arrived. Four playoff games in the last two years. And now Houston needs them to lose three in a week. Good luck. In other words, this series is pretty much over. Steph back. Series over.