NBA

Sure, it’s just the Blazers. But holy …

via @warriors

This was really exciting for a first round series sweep, because the entire story arc of the 2017 Golden State Warriors was on display. One of their stars got hurt. There was a brilliant comeback in Game 3. Nearly every healthy Golden State role player performed as well as they had all season, if not better. Steve Kerr succumbed to the pain that has haunted him for two years, and he could come back at some point during the playoffs or retire — it’s all on the table at this point.

I’m not sure any of those things matches the gravity of what we saw in the first quarter of Game 4. The Warriors wouldn’t allow Portland — not just the Blazers, but the entire city — to breathe. Yeah, yeah, I hear the claim: things would’ve been different if they had Jusuf Nurkic. Uh, no. The Warriors are on a mission to take back what the feel is rightfully theirs, and the Blazers were embarrassed due to a wicked onslaught as a result.

Golden State grabbed the opening tip, and Klay Thompson was sent to the line due to a foul on Moe Harkless. Thompson missed the first free throw.

The Warriors were as close to perfect as you’ll see on a basketball court for the next three minutes.

They went 5-for-6, the only miss coming on a Zaza Pachulia “Really guys, I have to shoot this? … Fine” jumper. Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Thompson all hit threes. Portland committed two turnovers and one of their shots was blocked by Green. The Warriors bounced to a double-digit lead they would easily maintain for the duration, starting with this three-minute stretch that put Golden State up 14-0.

Oh, but then it continued, and once Stephen Curry started heaving haymakers in the form of rainbow threes that assaulted the nets, you knew this was going to be a long, sad night for Portland, no matter what Damian Lillard did in response.

The Warriors ended this in a way that could be written off as “boring” by someone who didn’t watch, but these four games all told their own story and demonstrated how Golden State has evolved since last year.

They played rope-a-guard with Lillard and C.J. McCollum in Game 1, which resembled a lazy pillow fight in the first three quarters as the Warriors were content to trade shots with the Blazers until they finally got serious about defending their best players in the fourth quarter. The end to that game rolled nicely into a rugged 29-point Game 2 win, in which the Blazers found it difficult to make shots and complete the simplest passes. Game 3 went as one would expect in the first half, since the road team was down 2-0 and the favorites were down a Kerr. The Saturday night comeback, with Andre Iguodala making faces and Curry throwing the final daggers, was when they finally embraced their true destiny.

They were villains. And loved every minute.

The Warriors threw a “SUPER VILLAINS” team gathering celebrating the idea in November, and yeah, maybe some t-shirts were worn and quotes were uttered as time went on, but they weren’t really villains before. They were hated by many during the regular season, when they had the fourth-highest point differential of all-time, but it always seemed like they were working through something. They were the favorites, but never did they seem to take as much delight in toying with an overmatched foe as they did in the final game of this series with Portland.

Durant was back and unstoppable in the opening minutes. Curry back to his old “clowning” ways. Thompson looked emotionless as he rubbed salt in Portland’s wounds with more threes when the Blazers couldn’t quite take the extra emotional toll. Green inhaled the Blazers’ layups, drilled threes, and may have scarred Moe Harkless for life. What answer does a team like Portland have? Well, other than do what they did in Game 4: wilt. And the “w” isn’t capitalized for a reason.

I saw Green clapping near the face of Harkless during the first half of Game 4, and a little later I saw this from an ESPN story:

Harkless obtained a $500,000 bonus for shooting 35 percent or higher from 3-point distance this season. How he earned the extra cash made headlines. With four games remaining in the regular season, he was stuck at 35.1 percent. He cleverly didn’t attempt a 3-pointer in the final three games he played, securing the bonus.

Knowing this factoid, Green used it to his advantage. At one point during Game 2, while he was guarding Harkless along the perimeter, Green baited his opponent to hoist a 3.

“You ain’t gonna shoot it. You’re still chasing that petty-ass change,” Green yelled to Harkless, sources told ESPN.

The most effective way to belittle an opponent is to do it without leaving him space for an alibi. How could Harkless respond to that bit of teasing, which was 100% true? But if you read that passage, and a few others in that story that have to do with Green mocking Harkless, aaaaaannd you aren’t a Warriors fan, you might think Green is a jerk. Just like Iguodala can be a jerk simply by utilizing his expressive face to display disdain/incredulity toward an opponent.

I guess my point is these Warriors are probably going to end up becoming the most hated team since the ShaqKobe Lakers, and it might happen as early as next week. They aren’t into pleasing anyone now. Curry has stopped trying to please Durant, Durant is hungry to return and remind everyone that he’s a perennial MVP candidate for a reason, and Green is a world-class irritant. Thompson’s still shooting, and the roster looks deeper by the game.

Dub Steps

— JaVale’s oop finish on the pass from Draymond … my goodness.

— Not that there was any doubt by this point, but when a defeated C.J. McCollum (the Warriors’ opening punch landed him square on his ass, and he never got up) missed a three, Curry grabbed the rebound, and after a few dribbles launched a 30-foot running three to put the Warriors up 28-5, the Blazers’ season was over. People overuse the terms “scary” or “frightening” when describing athletes and teams, but it worked in that context tonight if you allowed yourself to imagine facing this team at full strength.

— Now Durant, Shaun Livingston, and Matt Barnes might have up to seven days of rest before Game 1 of their second round series, and it’s possible they’ll end up facing a team they always crush — the Clippers — without having to deal with Blake Griffin.

— I’ll admit it: I thought the David West signing was good for veteran leadership and not much more. I didn’t expect this. He’s still a legit big man off the bench, a guy who can score pretty efficiently, grab rebounds while frightening guys, and throw nice passes.

— Underrated garbage time moment: Patrick McCaw, who hadn’t scored, dumped a pick-and-roll pass to fellow rookie Damian Jones in the final minute, allowing Jones to score his first points.

— Curry scored 37 points in less than 30 minutes in Game 4 and was in a mood to dance and turn his back on made threes before they actually went through the net, but this really was a Draymond Green series. What’s crazier, that he made 2.8 threes per game and made 55% of his 3-pointers, or his 4.3 blocks per game?

Gotta go with defense. Oh hey, we have this new shirt that’s available for the playoffs only!

And here’s our other new design for the playoffs (available in men’s and women’s). Hurry up and get ’em before they’re gone!

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