The first games of playoff series are supposed to be statement games, and sure enough, the blasted Houston Rockets wasted no time to make theirs at Oracle Arena on Saturday.
Even before the first jump ball, the Rockets sent a pointed message, and it was this: The surest (only?) way to beat the Warriors is to take down Stephen Curry and take him down hard. That was apparent from the time that dirtbag Patrick Beverley drove a hard shoulder into Curry in what was supposed to be the pre-game hand clasp. In everywhere except Oakland, that’s a misdemeanor assault.
Beverley and the Rockets got physical with Curry at every turn, tried to goad him out of his rhythm. Finally, late in the second period, the MVP twisted an ankle that resulted in not one, not two but three trips to the locker room.
Curry expected to be good to go in Game 2 on Monday night. Coach Steve Kerr said he was questionable. Balls would take it a step further. It would go all Gregg Popovich and instruct him to take the rest of the series off. That may amount to only three games, because unless Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon come back in their primes, the Rockets have a snowball’s chance to win the best-of-seven series whether Curry plays or not.
Really, why risk further injury to the best player in the world? Far worse, why give an inferior team a chance to take him out of the postseason entirely? Haven’t the Warriors already had one repeat bid sabotaged by a low blow?
As old-time Warriors fans recall, their team was on the verge of victory in the 1975 NBA Finals when Washington Bullets thug Mike Riordan purposely assaulted Rick Barry early in the fourth game. The Warriors went on to sweep the series, but one year later, the Phoenix Suns tried a similar stunt with better results in the conference finals. A rookie punk named Ricky Sobers mugged Barry early in Game 7 at the Oakland Coliseum, except that the Champs didn’t circle the wagons this time. Inexplicably, they unraveled like a ball of yarn in the second half, a devastating loss that Barry and coach Al Attles will take to their graves.
If the Warriors are smart, they won’t allow history to repeat itself.