Thursday, May 9, 2019

Bigger not better

Re: 2019 WCF Semi Game 5:  **Start of Rant - feel free to move on**

Steph said something in the post-game interview that I know he's said a million times but it bothered me nonetheless.  He said that it was a game of runs...

At 3:00 left in the 2nd the Dubs were up 57 to 37.  You'd think any team in the convo for 'Best Ever', any team that can play the kind of defense that they could, would just control tempo and make the other team work.  From that point, one of the most talented teams in history scored not a single point missing on 8 straight attempts, all by their best three players - 2 by Steph, 3 by KD and 3 by Klay.  Only one was a drive to the basket: a blown layup by KD.

I remember the days when any team, let alone a championship team, would have a couple of empty trips down the floor and you just knew that the best player on the team would put their head down and go to the hole and get to the line.  The other team was putting together a run, so you came down and put yourself in a position to get a basket or a whistle.  There was an art to stifling a run - killing a run.  KD, Klay and Steph all remember those days, they grew up watching it on TV.  But they have so much talent that they don't have to do things like that, think the game. 

Talented scorers in the past the calibur of Klay, Steph and KD were always leveraging the threat of shooting at range to get easier shots and to get to the line, the way Harden does now.  But Klay shoots the ball 20 times and doesn't get to the line once in FORTY-FIVE minutes of play (doesn't even try to) and everyone is like that's normal.  Steph is the most dangerous shooter of all times and can break down guys on the perimeter seemingly at will, but going to the hole is like a complete afterthought.  He played absolute dogshit the first half, had no feel at all at range and you couldn't point to the moment when he said to himself he should try going to the hole and get to the line to get himself going.  Steph has gotten better but you can't tell me he's clearly getting smarter.

They really haven't had to get smarter because they have all these safety nets to fall back on.  I'm not talking about gaming the refs for a call.  I'm talking about putting pressure on the defense in a way that they don't expect when your shot isn't falling.  I'm talking about consciously feeding a hot Klay instead of watching him light it up for the first 12 minutes and then mindlessly going away from him.  For all the nonsense that Harden engages in, he has a much better sense of taking advantage of all of his talents, maximizing what's around him, mainly because he has to.  He scored only once in the last 8 minutes but he made the right play every time: Rox scored on 8 of 12 possessions.  It was only when KD went down did you see Steph actually consciously decide to go to the hole and mix it up.  Suddenly he's scoring again and if you asked him after the game, he probably wouldn't be able to see the relationship between going to the hole and finally putting some shots down.

People will say it's just because he has the ball in his hand more when KD's out.  It's not that.  It's what Steph does with it when it's in his hand.  If the defense is sure that you're going to shoot, then that's a problem.  The defense should never be sure what you're going to do when you're at Steph's level.  His live dribble gives him too many options to play like garbage.  No one who can handle the ball AND move off-ball like Steph has an excuse.

For all the bellyaching for how good the Warriors are, they should be way better than this.  Draymond is still reckless.  Klay is as dependable as he is predictable.  Livingston looks as bad as CP3.  Steph disappears in proportion to KD rising and STILL hasn't put together that avoiding a touch foul is more important than staying on the floor.  KD hasn't been incorporated into the Warriors system, leveraging him to make everyone else even more deadly. He just does his own thing and scores 35 because any double team he sees is by someone terrified to leave their man - because of the chaos of a simple off-ball screen for Steph or Klay.  If anything he's stifled their system in two ways: 1) off-ball stuff takes effort, KD iso doesn't and 2) KD's excellence lets Steph off the hook for stretches of the game.  Steph plays like shit and doesn't feel any urgency, doesn't do anything different, because KD's really good and when he's really good all they need from Steph is passable.  If they finished the half yesterday the way they should have, they way you expect of a championship team, they could have easily been up 20+.  Maybe KD doesn't have to log as many minutes, maybe he doesn't get injured. 

It's like - if the Dubs are so good, why is playing Harden, the corpse of 34 year old CP3, a Capela that is a shell of himself and "Here comes Austin Rivers" such a toss up? If the Rox need to lose the smugness if they go on to lose, I think the Dubs have to as well, too.  They could have legitimately been beaten by Harden and Eric Gordon.  The Dubs haven't decisively been the better team for two consecutive quarters in the whole series.  They haven't been dominant at all.  They could reasonably have lost every game.

TL;DR: People dislike the Dubs because they're so good.  If they were as good as they think they are, they sure as shit don't play like it.

***Rant over***

No comments:

Post a Comment