The Warriors allowed 45 points in the first quarter. It wasn’t just a bad defensive quarter, it was the Rockets in their full glory. Josh Smith looked even better than he did in Game 6 against the Clippers. James Harden was picture-perfect, and that continued throughout Game 4. The Rockets weren’t content to let their season slip away that easily, and the Warriors seemed very content.
Everything was going so nicely. It’s a long season, everyone deserves a little relaxation time. At least we’ve got our health …
Stephen Curry … I probably don’t need to describe how he fell on his head, since ESPN showed him toppling over Trevor Ariza, as if the swingman’s back was a trampoline, 260 times. The fragility of an NBA team was secondary for a moment. What about Curry’s life? His head and neck appeared to take the brunt of a fall on hardwood from a height of about six feet. What if his season is over? What if he’s never the same?
In an instant, the Golden State’s lethargy looked worse than ever. Curry was one of the only Warriors putting forth maximum effort, and in a weird game, it came back to bite him and the Warriors, who gave Houston a sliver of hope on Monday night.
Curry did return, and after airballing his first three and having his second three blocked, he actually played fairly well. But the Warriors were a jumbled mess after going into the second quarter down 23 points, and the Rockets always had a perimeter jumper at the ready to bury the Warriors whenever Golden State came within single-digits. The Warriors outscored Houston after the first quarter, and made it semi-close a few times, but the Rockets still won 128-115.
As long as Curry is healthy, and we’ll get to that in a bit, this is probably nothing more than another learning moment for the Warriors. They need to force the action to get what they want; teams aren’t going to cede playoff rounds just because Golden State took a 3-0 series lead in a way that made everyone look toward a finals matchup with LeBron James and the Cavs.
— We’re all concussion experts now, aren’t we? Even though we know less about the human brain than we do about Earth’s oceans, we can diagnose concussions based on the amount of skull-bounce, the speed of impact, and the hardness of the surface with which the head connects, based on TV replays.
I totally get it. None of these leagues gave a hoot about concussions for every year of our lives until … 2008? But the Warriors aren’t going to risk their most valuable asset with a 3-0 lead. Not these Warriors, anyway. The 2004 Warriors? Absolutely. The 2010 Warriors? GET HIM ON THE FLOOR, IT DOESN’T MATTER IF HIS EYES ARE CROSSED. But this is an organization that monitors how much these guys sleep, and the Warriors had very little chance of coming back, Curry or no Curry.
Of course, the Warriors medical staff may feel as if they did everything as ethically as possible, and Curry still may have suffered a concussion. We just don’t know. In 100 years they’ll laugh at our rudimentary knowledge of our own gray matter.
— “Can the Warriors win the Finals without Curry?” … it’s not a question worth asking. No. They can’t. Curry is their best player, and he’ll play in the Finals (provided the Warriors don’t suffer the worst NBA Playoffs collapse in history).
— I had a feeling that the Warriors might’ve come back if Curry never returned. They made a great push at the end of the second quarter, and no one can blame his teammates for watching him a little too closely to see if he was OK once he started playing again. Hey, what’re you gonna do? It’s Curry. If he’s healthy enough to play, he plays.
— Should Dwight Howard be suspended? Probably, but maybe not? I don’t know, it seems like this is a natural reaction to several games in a row playing against Andrew Bogut. And he’s a future-Hall-of-Famer (yes, it’s true, whether you like it or not, because he’s a three-time Defensive Player of the Year), so Howard isn’t missing any time for lashing out in a way that didn’t cause any real damage.
— The defense we saw from the Warriors in the first quarter was kind of sad, in a way. Didn’t they they learn how to close teams out in the Memphis series? Here’s the problem: Memphis can’t score, and Houston has several shooters who can get hot at any given time, and they were all hot in the first 12 minutes.
— Harden (45 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals, two blocks) was incredible, but Draymond Green (21 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, FIVE blocks) wasn’t far behind. Harden did block one of Green’s shots, though. And no one’s jumper is smoother off the stepback. Harden is opportunistic, but he’s also one of the five best players in the world.
— Hopefully Andrew Bogut shows up for Game 5.
— Steve Kerr let the world know that he’s more than willing to go into Hack-A-Smith/Howard mode if that’s what it’ll take. If there’s anything the Warriors can take from this game, is that they only lost by 13 on the road in a game that they didn’t need, and the Rockets absolutely needed, where Smith went 7-for-8 from the field (he went 3-of-12 from the line).
— The Warriors need Klay Thompson to play with the same spark we saw after Curry left. If both of those guys are cooking at the same time, they won’t have any problems on Wednesday.