The Warriors have seen the last of Matt Barnes and the other Los Angeles Clippers thugs this season, but don’t think their World Wrestling Entertainment days are over yet.
The Rockets haven’t forgotten that the Warriors treated them like a J-V team in the regular season, when they were swept by an average of 15-plus points per game. And James Harden and a few teammates are still peeved that Stephen Curry lapped the field in the Most Valuable Player vote, which is silly especially when you consider the Warriors won 11 more games in the regular season.
Curry has a long memory, too. On Monday, the MVP made a pointed reference to the “cheap shot” that he took from Trevor Ariza in a matchup earlier this season.
“I don’t remember them talking much trash at all except for that time in one of the games with Trevor Ariza that I thought I got a cheap shot,” Curry said after practice. “Other than that, I mean, it’s basketball.”
On the play in question, Curry attempted to set a screen on Ariza with his feet spread several feet apart. The Rockets’ Patrick Beverley stuck a forearm in Curry’s back, which caused Curry to lose his balance momentarily and further impede Ariza while the Rocket tried to move around him. Ariza believed the contact was unnecessary, and after the play, he made a point to blind-side Curry with his shoulder while the two headed downcourt. It takes a lot to get under Curry’s skin, but he immediately went after Ariza before teammate Draymond Green intervened. Ariza was assessed with a technical foul, and a short time later, teammate Josh Smith got socked with one, too.
“You have to be ready for anything,” Curry went on to say. “You expect the intensity, the atmosphere to be — I don’t know the word … There might be some chippy episodes just because we know where we are — we’re in the Western Conference finals and four wins away from being to the [NBA] finals and one step closer to chasing our dreams. There’s one team in our way to get there, and whatever happens between games, you’ve got to try to keep your composure and stay focused on what the mission is and not get caught up in any of that stuff.”
CONNECT THE DOTS: Rockets coach Kevin McHale was no lily himself with the Boston Celtics for 12 seasons. He was the guy who touched off a wild scene at the Los Angeles Forum with his clothes-line tackle of Kurt Rambis in the 1984 NBA Finals.
WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: McHale coulda, woulda shoulda been a Warrior if not for the worst trade in franchise if not NBA history.
In June, 1980, the Warriors traded the third pick in the draft and Robert Parish in return for the first and 13th selections. The Celtics selected McHale, while the Warriors stuck themselves with Rickey Brown and Joe Barry Carroll, who would become known as Joe Barely Cares and Just Breathing Carroll in later years.
So the Celtics stole two future Hall of Famers who became cornerstones for championship teams, and the Warriors got more than three decades of mostly crummy basketball.
SEEN ONE, SEEN ’EM ALL: Be prepared to see Harden at the free-throw line over and over and over again, because he has turned incidental contact into an art form. He attempted so many freebies (824) in the regular season, runner-up Russell Westbrook (654) wasn’t in the same zip code.
“You know once he drives, he’s looking for a foul,” Green said. “That’s something we have to make sure we’re ready for and we’ll have to keep him off the line as much as possible. It is a huge part of his game. And he’ll beat you from the free-throw line (because) he don’t miss free throws. So we’ve just got to do the best we can to stand vertical and keep our hands up.”
Balls sets the over-under on Harden falls at 12½ per game.
TICKET: If you don’t have a ticket for the series, then you may want to find a second job immediately.
According to TiqIQ, fans have shelled out an average of $719.56 to attend the games, nearly double the $372.02 ticket price in the Oklahoma City Thunder-San Antonio Spurs conference finals last year. The totals ranged from $179 for a standing-room ticket to $7,9000-plus for a VIP Courtside seat.
THE LIST: What 800 bucks also gets you these days:
– New iPhone
– Five-mile ambulance ride
– One night at the Four Seasons Los Angeles
– Scoop of Black Diamond ice cream
– Giants infielder Joe Panik for one at-bat
WHERE HAVE YOU GONE … Rudy Tomjanovich?
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