The last time Blazers-Warriors was remotely interesting was last February  when the Warriors strolled into Portland after the All-Star break and they couldn’t do anything right. Oakland native Damian Lillard dropped 51, outplaying Steph Curry, and the Blazers won. For one small second it made you think that with the best backcourts in the West, perhaps, a rivalry was here. There was intrigue with so many perimeter scorers who are gifted.
As if it was a mirage, that February game, the Warriors have kicked the Blazers ass every time after that, as if something about that 51 point Lillard output really got under their skin. The next time they played, in March, the Warriors won by 16 and Lillard had 17 points on 26% shooting. They played them in April and it was another Warriors slaughter: 25 points. They played them in the second round of the playoffs last year and won the series in six. This year in the playoffs, it was a bore, only that first game was competitive and even then you knew the Warriors were going to win. The Warriors can be beaten but not by a two man team.
And so here we are. The Warriors with a trying to get healthy Kevin Durant and an ailing Steve Kerr. Mike Brown is coaching them to victory like Luke Walton coached them to victory last year early in the season. Mike Brown coached LeBron James and Kobe Bryant but in a twist of irony it is Steph Curry that may deliver his first title as a head coach if Steve Kerr is unable to continue.
This should surprise no one. Golden State leads the NBA in scoring in the playoffs. They are first in assists. They are second in rebounds.
It sounds redundant to keep repeating the same thing but the Warriors move the ball too well and too crisply. They have better shooters than the Blazers and perhaps the rest of the Western Conference. They play at an energetic pace and beat the rest of the West in the intangibles, like running in transition, boxing out and overall synergy. Furthermore, to put it bluntly, when they demoralize their opponent like they did on Monday night and said team plays with zero fire in the belly after taking a right hook and they look like cement is tied around their ankles, then they have no shot. The Blazers had no shot.
It is romantic to continue to talk about the Cavs and that is their privilege because they are the defending champs and in this sport the defending champs get the benefit of the doubt until they lose. The Warriors have come in second to the Cavs all year long because of how they lost the Finals and the Kevin Durant injury and because they didn’t win 73 games and Steph wasn’t a phenomenal MVP candidate. They are doing the same thing they did last year and it is so ho-hum. Until the playoffs and their dominance is center stage.
The Warriors are everything we knew the Warriors could be. They are the best offensive team of the past thirty years and maybe forever. They are the best assist team. They are the best passing the ball in the post team. They are the best cutting team. They are the best moving without the ball team. They are the best at unselfishness. No other team has three players that can score 40 on any given night. This is one of the all time special teams but because there is Warrior fatigue it’s hard to really get excited about whatever they do to a weak Blazers team that needed a strong push to make it to the playoffs.
NBA history has proven this happens with great teams when the little engine that could tries to beat them but fails. The Jazz couldn’t beat the Bulls. The Kings couldn’t beat the Lakers. The Blazers cannot beat the Warriors at their own game. It is 10 straight Blazers losses and the wheel keeps turning. The Blazers don’t have the personnel to stop Golden State at anything. They don’t have the toughness. They are not edgy enough. They don’t have the shooters or the inside play. Or, the defense. They don’t move the ball. They can’t win.
It doesn’t mean the Warriors are a perfect team. They aren’t. They will be tested if they have to play a team with multiple perimeter shooters, a taste of their own medicine, like San Antonio or Houston. But the Clippers or the Jazz, in the second round, will be another playoff sweep, barring injury. Chasing the Warriors all over the court and then having to score is exhausting. It won’t be until they match up with the Cavs in the Finals that it gets interesting. The Warriors have no answer for LeBron James or Kyrie Irving.
The Clippers, Jazz and Spurs have no answer for Steph and Klay and KD.
Wake me up in June.
photo via llananba