Steph Goes Off In Game 1

Portland’s in deep, but they’ve been in deep before.

Jim Rome
May 15, 2019 - 11:01 am
Steph Curry

USA Today

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For a minute during that Rockets series, there was this narrative about Steph Curry. Narrative being that the Warriors were Kevin Durant’s team, not Steph’s. And that the Warriors, without Durant, were suddenly vulnerable. Maybe not even the team to beat.   The narrative being that Steph was struggling in the playoffs and simply wasn’t the player he used to be. Never mind that that he was playing with a jacked digit, that clearly bothered him more than he was letting on.

Then he was held scoreless in the first half of Game 6 and the haters were screaming it from the rooftops: never mind that this guy is a two time MVP with a fistful of jewelry: the dubs were in trouble, Steph was scoreless and folks were rushing in to bury this cat.  Yeah, right up. Until he scored 33 in the second half, including 23 in the fourth quarter to close out the game and ruin the Rockets. The Rockets were dead and that narrative should have been as well.

But for some reason, it wasn’t. Especially for those dopes who never respected the guy the way they should in the first place. Well… if you still had questions, they were answered last night. 36 points, including 9 threes, en route to a 116-94 win in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

He had it all working.

Back to back threes to end the first half.

And this absurd fast break three.

And this.

I’ll be honest, that looked easy. And you know why?  Because it was. Golden State was rested and ready for action. The Blazers were gassed. They’d just played Game 7 on Sunday and then had to face the most dominant team of the era on the road.

No wonder Dame and CJ had off nights. That wasn’t a matter of will or the moment being too big for them. Or a lack or preparation. Or focus. Or heart. All that garbage was floating around last night and it was ridiculous. You think that Damian Lillard, playing in the conference finals, in his hometown of Oakland, is going to be over-awed by the moment? You think he’s going to shrink from that? You think CJ McCollum, coming off a 37-point performance in Game 7 at Denver is going to feel like the conference finals is just too big for him? Shut the hell up with all that. That’s not what that is. 

It’s a matter of just not having anything in the tank. And running into a team that had been resting up. And yes, there’s an issue that Portland is going to have to resolve with how they defend Curry. He had a lot of open looks, as the result of Enes Kanter not picking him up on screen actions. And they’ll have to figure that out. Or he will destroy them, just like he did last night.

But as exhausted as Portland looked, and as poorly as Lillard and McCollum shot it, they were still within reach at the end of the third quarter.

There isn’t an easy solution when you play the Warriors. That’s why they’re the Warriors. Even without Kevin Durant, they’re monsters. And they move the ball so well.  Especially without Durant. I’d never argue that they’re better without Durant, but the ball does move a lot better without Durant. And when that ball is moving and they’re in their flow, they can go deep. Like 13 players on their team deep. That is a nightmare for Portland. It’s not just that Curry got off. Or that Klay got off. Or that things were going so well for Golden State that Klay dunked.

No, that’s not the problem. It’s that those guys were fresh going into the game and they’re fresh coming out of it. It’s that Golden State played 13 guys and 10 of them went for 10 minutes or more. So the fresh get fresher. And suddenly, the lack of Warrior depth may not be an issue at all. Not if they’re quality minutes like that from their bench. And that’s going to be a real problem for Portland, especially since Steph is still Steph no matter how badly the haters want to say he’s not.

So yes…Portland’s in deep, but they’ve been in deep before. But not because they’re just happy to be here.  Or the stage is too big.  But because they were that gassed. And Golden State, even without Kevin Durant, is that good. You can count them out after one tired game, but if you do, that’s on you. And Paul Pierce, and anyone else stupid enough to say that a series is over after just one game.