Programming note: "Warriors NBA Finals Central" airs Tuesday night at 5 p.m., and immediately after Game 3 on CSN Bay Area. Both shows will be streaming live right here.
CLEVELAND -- The Golden State Warriors are like most teams; they run great from the front. And in a season like this, which has been essentially a hand ride from start to finish, getting out fast is an enormous boon to both confidence, rhythm and all-around good complexion and posture.
But after two games of the NBA Finals (and if you must, the last two games of the Western Conference Finals against Houston), the Warriors have come into games more bovine than beastly. This may be apropos of nothing, but in a series that has already declared itself to be a Game Of Thrones-quality mess now that Cleveland is working with Stars Two and Three in civilian clothes, starts will matter.
And here is what the Warriors have done in those last four games:
Game 4 in Houston, a horror show from start to finish – 8-of-25 shooting, effective percentage .400.
Game 5 in Oakland against Houston, the closeout – 6-for-26, .250 effective.
Game 1 against Cleveland, which needed overtime, 6-for-22, .295 effective.
Game 2, an even more unsightly overtime game, 7-for-20, .400.
In sum, 27-of-93 (.290), a hideous 8-for-38 (.210) from three, and an effective field goal percentage of .333, which isn’t effective at all.
What this suggests is that the Warriors are not getting into their offense very easily, reading the defense arrayed against them quickly, or not showing sufficient patience with the offense. It can also suggest that they tend when pressed to break out of their offense too early and try to go for the game-winner before the obnoxious halftime shows that ruin everyone’s in-game experience.
Numbers are cold, often nuance-free things, and even more detailed looks at each of the four games still guide you to the same conclusion – both the Rockets and Cavaliers have figured out through extensive scouting, video work and standard playoff scholarship what the Warriors want to do with their offense and are making them work much harder for it than they have in the previous 95 games.
And with the 100th game coming up Tuesday night, it is at least reasonable to ask the question, “Are the gentlemen a bit too amped up at the prize ahead to remember the slogging it takes to win it?”
The Warriors skipped an opportunity to explain their inner thoughts, secrets, hopes and yearnings, and given the fact that this is Day 52 of the postseason experience, or 16 days longer than any Warrior team in the past 39 years, they have probably exhausted topics they are comfortable sharing.
But the superficial signs are there that the Warriors are trying to make a big first impression every night while forgetting that the lasting impressions come at the end. They seem unwilling to let a play unfold to its natural destination, preferring to thrust the dagger swiftly and decisively on the assumption that the Cavs are no more prepared for the blitz than were the New Orleans Gentrys.
Cleveland knows how to do this; LeBron James certainly does, and he is the center of this particular universe. He is singlehandedly grinding the game ‘s pace to a near-standstill with a steady stream of isolations, the sets that frankly helped show Mark Jackson the door in Oakland.
The Warriors seem to take the lesson of not hurrying through their progressions later, which is why as games advance to the second half, they are actually more prone to overpassing – giving up a good look for a look that might be better, or worse, a shooter the passer would prefer to take the shot. Either way, it is overthinking something that has come naturally through most of the year, and the only change in their circumstances is that everyone who gives a damn about the sport is looking, anticipating, and even demanding the level of effervescence that only Riley Curry has been able to consistently provide.
This is fine-line stuff, but against a team like Cleveland, depleted though it might be, being in a hurry early only makes finishing the job harder. Four games is a small sample size, but the games often get smaller when the stage gets bigger, and the Warriors have been thinking about this for literally months.
And now that months have turned to days, they seem to have lost the natural rhythm of the offense, and that is starting with the opening tip.
So maybe Game 2 was Cindy Santana’s fault. A National Anthem with a kick-ass backbeat is often hard to overcome.