The stage is set for a battle of the goliaths. Last year the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors met in the Western Conference Finals, a game that many people decided was the ‘Finals before the Finals’. The Warriors managed to claw out a 4–3 series win before manhandling the Cavaliers in 4 the win their second straight Championship. After the season ended, the old guard of Houston’s core fell apart as Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute moved on to less bearded pastures. With their two defensive wings gone and an 11–14 start to this season, the Rockets seemed unequipped to launch a comeback until the Beard decided to scorch the record books. Now they’re right back to where they were last year and face the same obstacle: the juggernaut Warriors.
Golden State has had enough drama this season to start their own reality show. From the Draymond Green and Kevin Durant beef, to the speculation about Durant leaving, and the Warriors lounging through the first round to the tune of two losses at the undersized hands of the Clippers. The Warriors have been clouded by both media generated and self-imposed storylines as they attempt to claim their third straight golden O’Brien trophy. They are easily the most talent-packed team of my lifetime. Their roster includes several of the most transcendental players the NBA has ever seen, they had a truly remarkable series against the Rockets last year and this season it’s back baby, it’s back!
But this time around one crucial thing has changed: I don’t even want to watch this series.
Seriously, I fell asleep during the first game and it wasn’t even a late start time. For a game that tipped at 3:30 EST I found myself having to force my attention back to Game 1 like it was a chore. My watching partner for the contest was my father, who hasn’t consumed a Playoff series since the Bulls' second three-peat. Mr. James was thoroughly baffled by what Houston constitutes as an ‘offense’ and I found myself explaining to him why Harden continued to take “seriously terrible” shots. All of a sudden I found myself having to explain why analytically and strategically what the Rockets were doing was good basketball, and I don’t even like how they play myself!
All of this, when partnered with the incessant complaining about the poor officiating from players and my seeming acceptance of the Warriors probably winning anyway, was enough to make me get off the couch and go play some Rocket League with my buddies.
How did this happen? I mean, there are so many incredible storylines to be told in this series and there’s a chance that these games will be the highest levels of basketball I witness this calendar year. How is it that I kept checking my phone to see a close game and decided to read an article instead of watching the game on my phone?
I understand and agree that the refs in Game 1 were letting fouls go. Klay Thompson undercutting Harden on several three’s was dangerous an illegal. At the same time, “fouls” that we saw created throughout that entire game are super frustrating to see as a fan. I get that both teams are trying to gain an edge any way they can, but if the players want a “fair chance” they should play fair too, right?
The rest of the League has a way of copying the best practices elite NBA teams find, and I’m nervous that flopping may become the next big thing to catch on. We’ve seen how the Warriors have changed the importance of shooting for the NBA and how the Heat changed team building. This Playoffs has shown that some of the highest level games can have the most egregious floppers.
I was also struck by how boring it felt to watch the Rockets play as I defended their offense to my dad. Isolated, well-defended stepback jumpers aren’t sexy, even when they go in. I know that a lot of people turn this point into hatred for Harden, but I don’t hate him. He has his shooting to thank for his incredible stats and MVP season, but that doesn’t mean that he’s fun to watch play. Floyd Mayweather is arguably the best boxer ever, but I don’t watch his fights because they aren’t fun.
I also, at the bottom of my heart don’t see how the Warriors can’t win the whole thing again. There’s only one team in the world that has Kevin Durant: it’s the Warriors. The same can be said for Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson. The Rockets have Harden, but is there really anyone else that scares you? Chris Paul is still great, but I don’t see him as a world beater. Who’s the next name for the Rockets? Do Clint Capela or Eric Gordon strike fear into your heart? Yea, mine neither.
What worries me the most is that I feel like I’m not appreciating this Warriors team for what it is. There’s a real chance that I will never see a basketball team that was this talent-loaded in my lifetime, and it could be over next season. But it’s like they don’t want us to be excited about them. They got into a boxing match with Clippers in what should’ve been a formality and now have engaged in a yelling match with the refs with who they’ve had it out with all season long.
I’ll still tune in to watch every game of this series most likely and hope to catch more, but to be honest I checked out of this article early just as I did with the Game 1. In the meantime, I’m here for the other three series that are playing familiar basketball and I’ll check back on this series after the dust settles.