June 19, 2016, 9:38 pm
In this nasty business of writing about two teams — one the winner and one the loser — it’s hard to convey reasons why one team won and one team lost without diminishing the greatness of the losing squad.
The Warriors flirted with being history’s greatest team, possessing unworldly gifts and a flair for the dramatic to go with those record-breaking 73 wins.
But the warning signs were there. The Blazers played them tough and the Warriors just sort of did their thing and we wrote it off as being related to Curry’s knee injury, the rust and the assimilation period.
Then Oklahoma City showed up to an increasingly quiet Oracle Arena and punched them in the mouth in a game they ultimately lost. The Thunder appeared to have more athleticism and more importantly it looked like they held a god key, being able to switch everything the Warriors ran and hang tough.
The Warriors ran their normal stuff with their normal lineups and found themselves in a 3-1 hole. Draymond Green was in the crosshairs as he continually lost his cool, and the Warriors looked somewhat shook. Steve Kerr was no longer being lauded for his lineup decisions and adjustments. Kerr and his players constantly got caught up in the refereeing. They escaped against the Thunder and again — we wrote their problems off and declared them the prohibitive favorites in the Finals.
Across the court stood a Cavs team with no answers for the superior roster that the Warriors have.
Kevin Love would be rendered a non-factor because he isn’t a great fit for the series any way one slices it. Draymond Green, who ran into multiple Thunder players that matched up well with him, was now in a series in which he could flourish. Tristan Thompson wouldn’t be able to handle the Warriors’ switches on the perimeter, let alone Love, and players like Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes would make J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Richard Jefferson look silly. Kyrie Irving would be blanketed by Klay and Curry would not be covered by anybody that the Cavs could throw at him.
Early on it appeared that way.
But as the Warriors were putting the finishing touches on Cleveland in Game 4, and LeBron and Draymond ignored crunch-time action to have a war of words, it became clear that Green had once again struck the family jewels in a dirty manner. As it sunk in that he wasn’t going to get another pass and a suspension was on the way, the cumulative effect of the Warriors’ journey to that point finally set in.
Draymond, for all of his positives, didn’t care if he was more valuable to the team than his ego was to himself. The Cavs, who had seen LeBron misplace his jumpshot and most of their players lose their confidence, suddenly felt like they were playing with house money.
Get a win in Game 5 with no Draymond. Come home. Get a win in Game 6 and now we’re on to something.
Playing at their best now, the Cavs were locked in and like the Thunder did before them, they decided to switch almost everything and take away what the Warriors do best in their flow offense. And just like the Warriors did for the duration of these playoffs, they kept running their normal stuff and tried to do things their way. Steve Kerr continued to use lineups that clearly didn’t work, in particular with Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli and Anderson Varejao — and continued to demand that the Warriors move the ball rather than isolate their best players in winning matchups.
They wanted to play the Warriors way. The way that got them to 73 wins. As if changing would somehow invalidate their stranglehold on greatness.
Maybe they set themselves up for it by aiming for the title of ‘best ever.’ Maybe the egos of the players involved wouldn’t allow for them to hunker down, take good shots and find winning matchups. Maybe they were too caught up in the refereeing and the ‘us against the world’ mentality that can be both empowering and intoxicating. Maybe they simply did not know how to change.
Ultimately we all believe in ourselves and the things that we do and we do so at our own peril. It’s when we test those beliefs that we truly become the best that we can be. The Warriors have all summer to do exactly that.
April 23, 2019, 12:10 amReggie Jackson - G - Detroit Pistons
Reggie Jackson scored a team-high 26 points (9-of-20 FGs, 5-of-9 threes, 3-of-3 FTs) with seven dimes, three boards and a steal in Monday's Game 4 loss to the Bucks.
Jackson looked great tonight while keeping the Pistons in front for the majority of the game. However, the Bucks went on a big run in the 3rd and 4th quarters to complete the sweep. Jackson, at age 29, doesn't have a whole lot of upside left, but he's certainly capable of putting together games like this once or twice a month to swing a head-to-head matchup.
April 22, 2019, 11:53 pmAndre Drummond - C - Detroit Pistons
Andre Drummond double-doubled with 15 points and 12 rebounds in addition to three assists and one steal in Monday's series finale vs. the Bucks.
Drummond made just 7-of-16 field goals as he was blocked at the rim multiple times and struggled to drop it in even when he wasn't. Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo didn't make it easy on him tonight, but Drummond did have a strong season that shouldn't be forgotten as next season's fantasy drafts roll around.
April 22, 2019, 11:45 pmLuke Kennard - G - Detroit Pistons
Luke Kennard came off the bench on Monday night and scored just 11 points with one triple in 32 minutes.
Kennard had a pair of four-trey games to start the series, but he was mostly invisible in this one. There's still reason for optimism when Kennard enters his third season with the Pistons, especially if he can secure a consistant starting role.
April 22, 2019, 11:32 pmLangston Galloway - G - Detroit Pistons
Langston Galloway was very active as he compiled 10 points, two rebounds, three assists, two steals and two threes in 32 minutes off the bench on Monday, but it wasn't enough to keep the Pistons alive.
Galloway's spark helped the Pistons hold the lead for majority of the game, but the Bucks eventually outplayed them to complete the series sweep. He'll be back with the Pistons and likely won't be much more than an occasional threes streamer in standard leagues once again.
April 22, 2019, 11:23 pmGiannis Antetokounmpo - F - Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo went for a playoff career-high 41 (12-for-23 FGs, 15-for-20 FTs) points vs. the Pistons in Monday's 127-104 Game 4 victory.
Giannis was everywhere tonight as the Bucks completed the Round 1 sweep. He blocked four shots, had nine boards, dished out three assists, had a steal and hit two triples in his 32 minutes to go with the big scoring total. The Pistons had the lead for the majority of the game, but Antetokounmpo and company's superior talent, shooting and aggressiveness won out down the stretch.
April 22, 2019, 11:14 pmKhris Middleton - F - Milwaukee Bucks
Khris Middleton had 18 points (5-of-11 FGs, 6-of-7 FTs), four rebounds, one assist and two 3-pointers in 30 minutes as the Bucks completed their sweep of the Pistons on Monday night.
Middleton had a good series, averaging 19.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.8 threes. The Bucks will likely need him to keep it up as the competition heats up in Round 2 vs. the Celtics.
April 22, 2019, 11:08 pmSterling Brown - G - Milwaukee Bucks
Sterling Brown grabbed a game-high 13 boards to go with nine points, six assists and a steal in 27 minutes in Monday's win over the Pistons.
Brown didn't put up the flashiest stat lines in this series, but this was a great one. Malcolm Brogdon (right foot plantar fascia) is likely to return at some point in the next series against the Celtics, so Brown is probably headed back to the bench shortly.
April 22, 2019, 11:02 pmEric Bledsoe - G - Milwaukee Bucks
Eric Bledsoe had a well-rounded line with 16 points, three rebounds, five assists, two steals, one block and one three in 28 minutes in Monday's Game 4 win over the Pistons.
Bledsoe shot 7-of-12 in this closeout game while providing a steady veteran presence. For the series, he averaged over 19 points, four rebounds, five assists and exactly two steals. Bledsoe's defense will be tested in Round 2 against Kyrie Irving and the Celtics.
April 22, 2019, 10:54 pmNikola Mirotic - F - Milwaukee Bucks
Nikola Mirotic sank three triples on his way to scoring 12 points for the second game in a row in Monday's Game 4 against the Pistons.
Mirotic is still rounding into form and he's not doing much beyond hitting threes, but he should be able to contribute more in the next series as he gets his wind back.
April 22, 2019, 10:48 pmBrook Lopez - C - Milwaukee Bucks
Brook Lopez (back) briefly went to the locker room before re-entering the game in the second half of Monday night's Game 4 vs. the Pistons.
Lopez ended up with five big blocks, seven points, five rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes in the closeout game. His numbers in the series were similar to his regular season stats, but he increased his blocks to 3.5 per game. He'll have another tough challenge in Round 2 when Al Horford comes to town.
Source: Matt Velazquez on Twitter