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Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors game preview

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

(Warning to Warriors fans: salt incoming. You have been warned.)

Two years ago, the Warriors were the darlings of the NBA.

“Oh look at how many 3s they shoot! Curry never misses! Draymond is such a great and vocal leader! Klay is a perfect complement for this team! Their fans are so loud!”

Fast forward two years, and while you still hear most of those claims, I think most of the NBA is starting to finally tire of the Warriors.

Obviously, Rockets fans have their own issues with the Dubs. Houston still believes James Harden was the Most Valuable Player two years ago (and the players agreed). The teams met in the Western Conference Finals that year and Curry’s team dispatched Harden’s squad four games to one. While Curry supporters pointed to this series win as proof of their champion’s superiority, Harden fans were quick to point out that Curry’s supporting cast made the difference. Oh, and Houston fans remember when Draymond Green clotheslined Patrick Beverley.

But in general, NBA fandom has cooled on the Warriors since last season’s Finals. I think excessive media coverage was mostly to blame, but that’s a tough line for journalists to toe. After all, the Warriors were on pace to break a 20-year-old record held by a Michael Jordan team. And that led to so many questions and narratives (with my answers in parantheses):

  • Did Steph Curry belong in the Michael Jordan conversation? (Lol nope)
  • Would the Warriors beat the 1996 Chicago Bulls? (Maybe. Who cares?)
  • Is Klay Thompson the best shooting guard in the league? (Still no)
  • Had small-ball completely taken over? (Too early to tell, but it’s trending that way)
  • Which was more important: system or talent? (For another time, but it was the only good philosophical question that was produced by this team.)
  • Was Draymond Green a top 5 player or was he a product of the system? (Still a legit question, but after watching him in the Olympics the latter has to be considered more likely.)
  • Was Steve Kerr the greatest coach of all-time, or had he inherited a great squad from Mark Jackson? (Definitely somewhere in between those.)
  • Could anyone take two games off these guys in a playoff series? (Yes. Two teams did, actually. And one team did it twice in the same series.)
  • What would it take to beat them in a series? (A great point guard to take advantage of their only glaring defensive weakness and the second-best player in the history of basketball.)

You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about this team. Every sports media outlet talked Warriors 24/7. For the first time ever, ESPN didn’t devote a millions hours of daily coverage to baseball spring training and actually continued talking basketball (no need to worry baseball fans; the MLB season took the expected 312 months to conclude so there was plenty of coverage eventually).

We could talk about a lot of things in regards to last season’s Warriors. We could talk about their incredible record-breaking season, the first unanimous MVP in NBA history, or their amazing comeback from down 3-1 to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder (Game 6 of that series is honestly one of the greatest games I’ve ever watched that didn’t include the Rockets-it felt historical while it was happening).

Or, you could not let this preview distract you from the fact that the Golden State Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals with homecourt advantage and the first-ever unanimous MVP in a season where they went 73-9. Sure, blame Draymond’s Game 5 suspension. Still should have won Game 7. Blame Andrew Bogut’s injury. He barely played in the series. Blame Curry’s injury. He played through it, so that’s his own fault.

Before we wrap up, let’s talk about Kevin Durant. I don’t blame the guy for going to the Warriors. His departure was a product of the “RINGZ!” mentality that’s all over social media. KD kept hearing he hadn’t won a title and therefore was nothing. That’s not true at all. He’s a future Hall of Famer and would have been even without a ring. I lament the lack of parity we’ll have once the playoffs start, but I don’t blame Durant. If you’ve ever used the “YEAH BUT HOW MANY RINGS?!” argument, you are part of the reason he bolted to greener pastures.

What I don’t understand is that Golden State was recruiting him during the season last year. As in, they were recruiting Durant WHILE THEY WERE WINNING SEVENTY-THREE GAMES!

Huh?

That’s a team that should have won the title. They blew it. But even before that, when the title seemed inevitable, they were trying to add another superstar. All the while knowing it would cost a good chunk of their depth. And now if Durant or Curry gets hurt, this team is decidedly worse the squad they had on the court last season.

The Durant chase shows that even they weren’t confident in themselves last season. How a team wins that many games (mostly in blowouts) and still wants to destroy their competition from the inside instead of on the court is beyond me. It was a punk move, the sign of a team that acted tough and cocky on the outside but was really mentally weak and scared on the inside. That glass jaw was exposed in the Finals.

Now, with all that said, the Warriors are going to give it to Houston tonight. If Houston keeps it within single digits, I’ll be stunned. The Warriors are built to win in the regular season. Those mega-runs they go on get stopped more frequently in the playoffs. But in an 82 game regular season, they just chew through teams. They’re great. And this is one of the best pictures on the Internet:

Ah Steve. Remember when you didn’t coach an evil empire? Because I sure do. Also, those are the two most bro-iest dudes on the planet.

Anyway, apologies for the salt (even though I prefer pepper, honestly).

Tip-off is at 9:30pm CT on TNT. I’ll be asleep long before the end of this one. Seriously NBA, it’s time to get rid of these West Coast start times. Yes, I’m being ridiculous and unfair. Yes, I am talking to myself. So?