For the Kings-Warriors series, basketball fans who don’t have a stake with one of the two teams should have been rooting for the Warriors Sunday. This series really deserves to go seven games, especially for the players and the coaches.
The series has so many great storylines — the defending champs against a team coming off the longest playoff drought in American professional sports, the Kings’ coach (of the year) Mike Brown having just left a long run as Steve Kerr’s lead assistant (after Kerr played for him as an assistant coach with the Spurs), the old guard against the new including Steph Curry vs. De’Aaron Fox, and the fact that the teams’ arenas are only 90 minutes apart, reachable by bus rides, not flights. Not as close as Claremont vs. Pomona, where Gregg Popovich and I coached back in the day (and walked to each other’s gyms), but still just a bus ride away for fans and the teams.
With one sweep already in the books (goodbye, Nets), the Celtics righting the ship against the Hawks to go up 3-1, Giannis Antetokounmpo's injury messing up the Bucks-Heat series, the Knicks taking a 3-1 lead over the Cavs, and the Grizzlies’ brutal start to Game Three against the Lakers (the biggest first quarter margin in NBA playoff history), the Kings-Warriors series seems to be the most likely of all the first round contests to go all the way to a Game Seven.
All in all, this is a series that should go seven games. And if the teams could arrange to have their Game Seven go to overtime, I believe that would be a good thing too.
Other things I believe
- I don’t know if the Warriors have what it takes to win the championship again this year, but if they do, I believe the missed three-pointer at the buzzer by ex-Warrrior Harrison Barnes (yet another storyline) might be the most important shot of a possible 2024 Warriors championship run. Check back with me in June.
- Walking out of my Sunday morning basketball game, I told my buddy Alex that I believed the Warriors would not start Draymond Green after the Sabonis Stomp, with Draymond’s antics after the Stomp leading to his suspension for Game Three. I believed Kerr would want to send a message to Draymond, and more importantly the rest of the Warriors, that “team” was more important than any individual, even one as crucial as Draymond has been and is to the Warriors. I was right that Draymond did not start, but not about the reason. It turns out that Draymond himself suggested to the coaching staff that he come off the bench so as not to disturb the offensive flow the team had established in the game he missed. Maybe, just maybe, Draymond was sending the team the message I wanted Kerr to send.
- The Warriors’ passing that led to Klay Thompson’s buzzer-beating three pointer to end the third quarter was one of the most 2014 Spursian things I have seen in a long time.
- That three put the Warriors up by ten heading into the fourth quarter. I believe that when the Warriors walked off the floor after that shot, they believed that the Kings would fold and the Warriors had just won the game. Look at this picture and tell me if you agree:
- The reason Klay’s three did not end the game was two-fold. First, the young Kings did not panic. Instead, they stormed back at the start of the fourth quarter. In the first three minutes, the Kings went on a 15-4 run that turned the Warriors’ 102-92 lead into a 107-106 Kings’ lead. Second, even though they eventually won, the Warriors did not finish the game well. Kevon Looney missed a dunk, Jordan Poole gave away a point by getting a technical foul. Curry missed two possible dagger shots and then, incredibly, called a time-out with 42 seconds left that the Warriors did not have — with a five point lead and the ball — resulting in another technical. The game was effectively over at that point. Kerr had put Curry in that position by using the team’s last timeout on an unsuccessful challenge before getting to the last two minutes of the game. And of course, the Warriors then gave up Barnes’ open three-pointer that would have put the Kings up 3-1 in the series. As Kerr said after the game: “These games are coming down to the wire, and you’ve just got to really finish possessions and try to give yourself the best chance, and then sometimes, it’s just, does the ball go in or not?” Because Barnes’ shot did not go in, everyone who is not a fan of one of the two teams can root for a Game Seven.
I ended Saturday’s post with Nuggets’ coach Mike Malone’s odd statement about not wanting to go back to Denver. I will end this post with a comment from Doris Burke before the game. Doris, who is an outstanding announcer, was extolling Looney’s nine assists in Game Three when she gave us this totally meaningless stat: “The Warriors shot 9 for 9 on Looney’s nine assists.”
I believe that teams always shoot 100% on assists. If someone on the team does not make the shot, the pass is not an assist. QED.