One of the things that make the Golden State Warriors –a miserable 25-1 at this moment– such a dominant squad is how effectively they use deception and misdirection during games. They’re all a bunch of Criss Angels out there, albeit with less “guy-liner.”
For example, speaking of angels, one of the main ways they spring angelic-faced demon Stephen Curry for open threes despite his well-established status as the world’s most dangerous shooter is by having him set screens for others.
Opponents have no idea how to stop it. If they stick to Curry in spite of his screen, then he essentially becomes the best 185-pound offensive lineman in existence, freeing teammates for open rolls to the bucket. If people respect the screen, then Curry disengages and finds himself unguarded to make the heavens rain acidic death.
Or take their micro “death-ball” lineup, with 6’6 Draymond Green at center. Opponents see it, and their inclination is to attack the undersized Green in the post since that looks like the biggest mismatch. Little do they realize that that’s exactly what the Warriors want them to do.
Green is their best defender, and he’s superb at nullifying post threats. Even when he does get scored on, post offense is far less efficient than the pace-and-space, pick-and-roll motion stuff that the Warriors are running on the other end. Their opponents are taking tough twos against Green while the Dubs are happily getting open threes and avoiding taxing Curry defensively. Classic misdirection.
Given that master class in chicanery, it’s surprising how scripted and transparent the Warriors are being off the floor with all this “we’re being disrespected” rubbish. It’s a paradox of sorts if you think about it. You want to lecture them and yell “Come on, you’re better than that, you should be above this stuff,” but great teams routinely manufacture slights because they’re so much better than most of their opponents and need to invent reasons to stay motivated and avoid monotony and boredom.
Green has the reputation as the mouthiest Warrior with the biggest chip on his shoulder, but Curry’s the one, who as he’s climbed higher and higher among the league’s elite, who’s looked for the smallest, seemingly innocuous things to fuel him. Right before tip-off of Game 1 of their Western Conference Finals against Houston, the Rockets sent little-used reserve Nick Johnson to center court for the captain’s handshake, and it noticeably ticked Curry off, as though slapping palms with someone like Johnson as opposed to James Harden or Dwight Howard was beneath him.
The Warriors wound up winning that series in five and the championship soon after that, and all was relatively well for most of the off-season. But when it came time to ramp up for training camp, the locals quickly pounced on comments Clippers coach Doc Rivers made about all title-winning teams needing some luck in terms of health and match-ups.
Rivers noted that Golden State didn’t have to play them or the Spurs on the way to the Larry O’Brien trophy. And the Warriors’ stars didn’t take too kindly to that, with Green comparing the Clippers to “scorned women,” Curry mock-apologizing for their health and the accolades they won –including him finishing ahead of Harden for the league MVP honors– and Klay Thompson deriding the Clips for blowing a 3-1 series lead against Houston.
Fast-forward to last Saturday, when the lowly Milwaukee Bucks finally put a dent in the Warriors’ loss column, ending Golden State’s bid to challenge the 33-game winning streak of the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers as well as becoming the first NBA team ever to go undefeated in a road trip of seven games or longer. The Warriors took exception to how euphorically the Bucks supposedly celebrated the win, with Curry saying “Oh, it was a nice celebration. We do remember that stuff. We were kind of laughing at some of the stuff going on. It was a big game for them,” and Green noting how Milwaukee’s Michael Carter-Williams talked trash to their bench after a late dunk.
In an unusual bit of scheduling for teams on opposing conferences, the Warriors will get a rematch with the Bucks Friday night, and they’ve made it plain that they’re looking for revenge, which is fine.
“There’s nothing wrong with the dunk, but the stare-down, trying to talk nasty in the game like that,” Thompson said. “And it’s like, ‘All right, you’re going to see us next Friday and in our building, too.’ We’re looking forward to it, man. Obviously, a team that gave us our one in the loss column, and we felt they could have won with a little more class.”
This is all patently ridiculous. The Bucks are 10-17, 13th in the Eastern Conference and five games behind eighth-place Detroit for a playoff spot. They reacted exactly like you’d expect anyone would after beating a 24-0 team. If the Warriors feel that they carried it too far, that they celebrated like they just won the Finals or something, it’s because for the Bucks and teams of their ilk the Warriors are the Finals. Playing Golden State in the regular season represents the most intense, meaningful competition half the league will participate in, aside from the card games on the plane. To give you an idea of the Bucks’ collective maturity, four prominent members of the team were caught out at a Los Angeles “gentlemen’s club” until 2 a.m. the night before a game against the Lakers. Milwaukee then lost to Kobe and the gang.
That’s the group you want to act demurely and with grace after beating you?
And it’s rich for Thompson to accuse anyone of not being classy enough. Curry and his teammates openly dance on the floor and on the bench during games. They make a show of not even watching Curry’s daggers splash through the net before strutting back in glee. Green gave a famous –and quite possibly inebriated– interview during their parade where he said of the team they defeated in the Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers, “they suck.”
The Warriors’ antics on the bench give Monmouth University a run for their money, and their act has gone beyond trolling into the realm of pure obnoxiousness, and you wonder if Steve Kerr would allow it to reach the extent that it has if he were on the bench. Interim coach Luke Walton retired as a player relatively recently compared to Kerr, and he lets more of this stuff slide, but Kerr, with his San Antonio roots, would likely make it known to his troops that he wants more decorum out there.
Milwaukee is going to lose by roughly 50 points tonight, especially with Greg Monroe likely to miss the game with a sore knee. Maybe Thompson and the others will reference how disrespected they felt afterward. Don’t fall for any of it, it’s all smoke and mirrors.
How else is anyone supposed to get excited about wasting a Friday night blowing out the freakin’ Bucks?