Friday, May 04, 2007

Warriors Shock the World

In what has to be considered the biggest upset in NBA Playoffs history, the Golden State Warriors became only the third #8-seed (alongside the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks) to upset a 1-seed. What you might not yet know is that the Warriors were the first team to do it in the current 7-game series system.

And who did they beat? Only the 67-win Mavericks, the heavy odds-on-choice to secure their first NBA title. Only a year after a 4-game collapse following 2 early victories over the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, the Mavericks seemed hungrier, deeper, and plenty poised to take home this season's NBA title. Securing home court advantage sometime in February, soon-to-be MVP Dirk Nowitzki and his Mavs appeared to be running on all cylinders.

Enter Don Nelson, responsible for the drafting and development of Nowitzki (and Avery Johnson as a coach), and his rag-tag bunch of thuggish-scruggish Warriors. Playing small-ball, and often barely going 7-deep, the Warriors had swept the season series from Dallas this season (and went 3-1 last season against them).

Despite a torrid end to the season - including securing their playoff spot following the last game of the season against Portland - many people didn't give Golden State much of a chance. Myself included.

Yet, the Warriors stole Game 1 in Dallas, and despite a double-digit loss in Game 2, Golden State never panicked during the series. They dominated the tempo and shot lights out from behind the arc in Games 3 and 4 (their first playoff games in Oakland in 13 years). Despite losing a 9-point lead in the closing minutes of Game 5 in Dallas (especially rallying from being down as much as 21 in the first half), the Warriors returned home feeling relaxed and confident.

For all of the trash-talking, technical fouls, and menacing facial expressions, Stephen Jackson was a force on the court all series. Shooting 10-19 from the field, including an astounding 7-8 from the 3-point line, Jackson's 33 led the Warriors throughout their 111-86 crushing of the Mavericks in Game 6.

B Diddy was off-balance all-night, yet hit every shot that mattered.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Despite pulling a hamstring early, Baron Davis (yes, the same B Diddy I said should've been traded at the deadline) put up his typical 20 point, 10 rebound, and 6 assist game despite fighting through brutal pain. Matt Barnes, as important as any role player in the 1st round thus far, played on a bad wheel of his own and contributed a key 16 points, 11 rebound, and 7 assist game. Whereas Maverick role players (i.e. Devean George, Devin Harris, and Austin Croshere) only stunk up the joint. Even rookie Maurice Ager saw action in the final 5 minutes.

Only Jerry Stackhouse, who had a 16-point first-half (including 4-5 from downtown), seemed to shoot well for the Mavs early on (who trailed by 2 at the half). Even Josh Howard, the most consistent Maverick throughout the series, struggled to hit key shots and assert himself on the defensive side of the basketball.

Placing blame on his superstar all series, it was Dallas head coach Avery Johnson who finally threw the towel in, following a ferocious dunk from Jason Richardson, by placing his MVP, Nowitzki, on the bench for the final 4 1/2 minutes of the game.

As for the MVP, he flat-out stunk up the joint during these playoffs.
His line tonight: 2-13 from the field, 8 points, 10 rebounds, 3 turnovers, countless flops and flailing-arm shots trying to draw fouls.

Dirk played uninspired basketball and appeared almost untalented the majority of this series. The small-ball approach by the Warriors (which often had Jackson or Barnes front Dirk and help come from the weak or post-side) was often suffocating and softened Dirk up quite a bit. Outside of a clutch performance in the closing minutes of Game 5, Dirk took poor shots, tried to draw far too many fouls throughout each of the games and lacked any presence to control the game in the closing seconds.

The question for Dallas and owner Mark Cuban now remains: Can we ever win our championship?

The answer for now is an emphatic NO.

The Warriors shocked everyone but themselves. Don Nelson was masterful in his game planning and had the Warriors convinced they could win this series by simply playing their type of basketball. Baron Davis is clearly the post-season MVP thus far. Meanwhile, hot-head Stephen Jackson (who was practically given away by Pacers executive Larry Bird) was incredibly poised and extremely clutch. Meanwhile, guys like Al Harrington bought into Nelson's system and accepted role situations.

All credit is due to the Warriors. However, heat must be placed on the Mavericks, and especially on their MVP Nowitzki and head coach Avery Johnson (who clearly couldn't motivate his star or push any of the right buttons for his team).

It's quite a story for the expected doldrums of the opening round of the NBA Playoffs.

Warriors in 6. Mavericks done.

Until next time...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bo Nelson smokes Cubans!
just got my GOLDEN STATE 'WE BELIEVE' t-shirt!
Go Warriors!