I was able to sit down with Andrew Flohr of Golden State of Mind, which is the Warriors fan site here at SB Nation, and talk a little shop about the upcoming first-round playoff series between the Rockets and the Warriors. We asked each other five questions about the respective squads we cover, with my answers to his questions about the Rockets posting over there, and likewise, his over here.
One of Sun Tzu's keys in The Art of War is "know your enemy", and hopefully you'll have a little bit more insight into the Dubs as we head into Saturday's Game 1.
Darren Yuvan: Much has obviously been made of the Dubs' 73 wins, and rightfully so. One heck of an achievement. But late in the year, head coach Steve Kerr did admit the quest for the record was taking a toll on his squad, and now that the record has been snagged, I'm sure there's been a collective sigh of relief. How likely is it that sigh, along with the mental and emotional toll the run to 73 took on the Warriors, combined with a match up in which many predict an easy sweep, results in an emotional let-down for their opening series and taking the Rockets lightly?
Andrew Flohr: 73 wins most definitely took its toll on this team, both mentally and physically. Each game that the Warriors have played in the last month has had the look and feel of a playoff game. I don’t think anyone wanted the regular season to end faster than Golden State did.
With that being said, the goal of this team all season long is to win the championship. I actually expect the exact opposite of an emotional letdown in this first series against Houston.
For the first time literally all season, the Warriors don’t have to worry about some sort of streak or record looming over their heads. They have one opponent and that is the Houston Rockets.
Draymond Green even mentioned last week that the Warriors were getting sort of "bored" with the long, 82-game regular season and how they are ready for it to come to an end. This team is focused on winning a championship and it starts with Game 1 on Saturday.
DY: What is the more impressive Warriors mark this year and why — the 73 team wins or Steph Curry crushing his own record for three pointers?
AF: Let's look at it this way. Growing up, many people didn’t even know where the Golden State Warriors played. The organization’s management was terrible and it showed in the product that they put on the court. Before the "We Believe" year, the highlight of my childhood was watching Jason Richardson win the dunk contest. Nobody cared about the Warriors.
To sit back now and look at how far this organization has come in six short years is really unbelievable. It’s impressive because winning is everything in sports. It takes an entire roster and an unbelievable coaching staff to complete such a task. I mean who ever thought that 72 wins could be topped?
But what are 73 wins without a championship? You then turn into the 2001 Seattle Mariners or the 2007 New England Patriots. Not a fun list to be on.
Looking at Curry and his three-point record is impressive in its own right. It’s the second time he’s broken his own record. I don’t even know if the verbiage "crushing" does justice to what Curry did to the three-point record. I think crushing is more appropriate in describing how many Coors Lights your Uncle Dan drank at Easter. Steph Curry obliterated the record for most threes.
Lets try and put it into some sort of context. Curry’s original record was 286 made threes in a single season. This year, he hit 402. That’s a 40% increase in made threes. That’s like Barry Bonds hitting 73 home runs one season, then slugging 102 the next. Or if Dan Marino tossed the pigskin for 5,000 yards one season then 7,000 yards the year after that. It’s kind of ridiculous.
Curry's stroke has transcended three-point shooting. He is so much better than anyone has ever been from long range that it makes it hard to really process the numbers he is putting up.
For me, if the Warriors end up finishing the season with another title, it’s 73 wins. This season legitimately puts the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors into the argument for greatest team of all-time. Now that is impressive.
DY: James Harden has been otherwordly of late, averaging 30.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 8.3 assists, and 1.9 steals per game on 46.1 percent shooting since the All-Star break. He averaged 34.8 points per game on 49.1 percent shooting in the month of April. The Beard is cooking right now, there's no doubt about it, and playing his best ball of the year right this moment. If Houston is to have any success in this series, they're going to need Harden to continue his scorching hot play. What exactly will the Warriors do to try to slow down The Beard while he's in the midst of playing so well?
AF: Harden can cook all he wants, but if his Sous Chef burns the veggies, the whole dinner is ruined. What I mean by that is Golden State can live with James Harden getting his. But that is if only James Harden is getting his.
I think if we learned anything from LeBron’s performance in the 2015 Finals, it’s that one player cannot defeat an entire team. James Harden can’t beat the Warriors by himself. He will need solid games from at least 2-3 other players in addition to a stat line that you mentioned.
But I guess to really answer your question, the Dubs have to attack Harden when he is on the defensive end. He plays a lot of minutes (league high 38 per game) and exhorts a taxing amount of energy on the offensive end. Because lets face it, some nights there is really nothing you can do to stop Harden. He can do anything he wants on the court and is one of the very best at getting to the foul line.
As long as the Warriors can keep Houston’s complementary players in check, then that will take some sting out of Harden’s bite.
DY: We all know an upset is unlikely (Vegas has Houston at 300-1 odds), but stranger things have happened — it's why they play the games. Lay out a scenario that has Houston advancing. What would happen to the Dubs to allow this to occur?
AF: That’s a really tough question. They haven’t lost back-to-back games all season long. I’m not great at math but the Rockets HAVE to win two in a row against Golden State to win a seven game series.
The Rockets would need to play their four best games of the season to get past the Warriors. They have to be incredibly efficient on offense, take care of the basketball and play San Antonio Spurs-esque defense.
This means having someone hug Curry off the ball at all times. They may even want to send someone with him to the Warriors bench when he gets subbed out.
It’s hard for me to give a real concrete answer because even if the Warriors do lose a game, they always bounce back the next night. You need Houston to play four straight games with the one thing they have really struggled with this season, and that’s consistency.
But if Dwight Howard and James Harden both have a monster series (and I’m talking 25+ and 10+ every game) then the Warriors could be in trouble. But I don’t see that happening, at least not on Howard’s end.
DY: What is your ultimate prediction for the series? Are you squarely in the sweep camp or do you see the Rockets being able to compete with Golden State and making any kind of series out of this?
I’ve gone back and fourth on this one for a while. I was so high on the Rockets coming into the season and they just keep letting me down.
I officially hopped off the Houston bandwagon after their loss to the Warriors on Dec. 31st. The Dubs were playing their second game in as many nights and were without Steph Curry. It was the only game (outside of the first game in San Antonio) that I truly felt like the Warriors were going to lose.
Let's not forget, the Warriors needed a 20 point fourth quarter comeback in Game 3 of last year’s playoffs just to keep their first round sweep of the Pelicans a possibility.
I really feel like this team is out to prove a point. My prediction is Warriors in four.
Many thanks to Andrew Flohr of Golden State of Mind for chatting with us here at TDS, and make sure you head over there to find my answers to his questions about the Rockets.