Tag Archives: Stephen Curry

Which Games Should You Watch on Christmas?

On Christmas Day, us fans of the NBA have a serious conundrum. There’s basketball for thirteen hours straight, which is great, but we also have familial obligations and the like. For those of you who can only escape your family for a game or two, here’s a guide to determining which games you should watch and which ones you shouldn’t.

Miami Heat vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Watch if you like: Freakishly long arms, all-lefty lineups, aging stars,  unibrows, imagining what Young Kristaps will be like in three years, having a quick snooze before the good games start.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Chicago Bulls

Watch if you like: Teams still finding their identities, power struggles, Enes Kanter’s bushy eyebrows, discontented players, Steven Adam’s fake-looking mustache, ex-college coaches in their first season in the NBA, Bobby Portis sitting on the bench, Dion Waiters hoisting up awful shots that miss by a mile.

Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Watch if you like: Games with history behind them, unstoppable pick-and-rolls, superduperstars, injured players returning, going small, raucous home crowds, great basketball, ridiculous displays of shooting from Steph Curry, ridiculous displays of athleticism from LeBron James, Iman Shumpert’s hair, JR Smith hoisting up awful shots that somehow go in.

Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs

Watch if you like: Spectacular wing defense, Hack-a-Howard, intra-state rivalries, Spursgasms, foreign players, beards, dazzling sequences of passing, free throws, lefty shooting guards with Eurosteps.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Watch if you like: Kobe Bryant missing shots, thunderous dunks, Chris Paul to DeAndre Jordan alley-oops, young studs against in-their-prime superstars, brutal blowouts, watching the last quarter and a half played by scrubs.

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Notes From Warriors-Bucks

Last Saturday night, the Warriors’ 24-game winning streak to open the season was ended, on the road, against the Bucks.

It was a spectacular game. I was cheering for history, and I never gave up hope until the Warriors were down eleven with ninety seconds to go. How could I? Golden State’s smothering defense can force turnovers and Steph Curry can rain threes, erasing even a double-digit lead in a minute or two.

The atmosphere at the game was electric. That phrase is overused, but in this case, it’s completely true. It’s only December, but the fans were cheering like it was a Game 7. The Bucks even handed out shirts reading “24-1” on the front.

Greg Monroe was impossible to defend. The Warriors couldn’t go to the so-called Death Lineup (or as Curry calls it, the “Uh-Oh Lineup) thanks to Monroe’s punishing post-up game. He pushed through defenders all-game, throwing in lefty layups and floaters on his way to 28 points on a mere sixteen shots.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was unstoppable as well. Despite taking only 11% of his team’s shots, the Greek Freak was a force all game, compiling eleven points, twelve rebounds, and ten assists for a triple-double.

Even Michael Carter-Williams managed to put his shooting woes behind him, shooting seven out of ten from the field and scoring seventeen points. He played tenacious defense, racking up five steals, resulting in fast-break chances for easy points.

Most impressively for the Bucks was the poor shooting night they inflicted on Curry. The early favorite for MVP shot only ten of twenty-one from the field, including an awful two of eight from three-point range.

This inefficiency was not limited to Curry. The team as a whole only shot 40.9% from the field and 23.1% from three. The Warriors even managed to miss eight free throws.

Some people have decided that Milwaukee has managed to figure out the formula to beating Golden State. Let’s work through that formula together to see one, if it has any basis in fact, and two, if it will work in the playoffs.

First, this game was in Milwaukee. Assuming Golden State earns home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, an opponent will have to win in Oracle Arena to eliminate the Warriors.

Next, this game was a back-to-back for the Warriors, which contributed to their lackadaisical play early on. In the playoffs, there are no back-to-backs.

On top of that, Golden State’s game the night before was a double-overtime game in Boston. The Warriors’ best two players, Curry and Draymond Green, played an exhausting 47 and 50 minutes, respectively. After the draining game against the Celtics, the Warriors flew to Milwaukee, arriving at their hotel at around 3:00 AM.

Finally, Harrison Barnes, the starter at small forward and the fifth member of the Lineup of Death (alongside Curry, Green, Klay Thompson, and Andre Iguodala), sat out his eighth straight game due to a sprained left ankle.

To recap, the formula to beating the Warriors is to play them at home, after they played a double-overtime game the night before and got to their hotel at three in the morning, have one of their starters out with an injury, and force the best shooter in NBA history and his team into an uncharacteristic poor shooting night.

Sounds pretty easy to replicate. The Warriors are doomed.

Will the Sixers Win Before the Warriors Lose?

According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, the Warriors are favored in 65 out of their remaining 67 games. The only two games the Warriors are the underdogs in are its road games at San Antonio. That’s it.

The first of those two games is in the middle of March, the Warriors’ 68th game of the season. Now, Golden State will almost certainly lose before then, but the question is: When?

The Warriors don’t face a tough game until December 5th, the team’s 21st game of the season, when they’ll play the Raptors on the road. Even then, they’ll still be heavy favorites against a Toronto team that just lost Jonas Valanciunas to a hand injury.

It’s worthwhile to note that the Raptors gave the Warriors a serious scare when the teams last played, on November 17th. In that game, at Oracle Arena, the visitors barely lost by a score of 115-110.

Assuming Golden State gets past Toronto, the toughest game the team will face until Christmas is a road matchup with the Pacers. On Christmas Day, the Warriors will host the Cavs, which could be a challenging matchup. However, due to the league’s best home-court advantage, Golden State is still likely to cruise to a victory.

We need to fast-forward almost a month, to January 18th, for the next serious threat to Golden State’s perfect record. They’ll play Cleveland on the road to begin an imposing weeklong stretch that includes road games in Chicago and Indiana and a home game against San Antonio.

If I had to bet, I would guess that the Warriors lose their first game of the season during that stretch, between January 18th and 25th. I have to agree with ESPN: the Warriors don’t look like they’ll be losing any time soon.

However, although the Warriors have been dominant through the first month of the season, they still have a close competitor in making history and it’s not who you might think.

The 76ers are almost as bad as the Warriors are good, with an 0-15 mark to start off the season. They’re four losses away from passing the atrocious 2009-10 Nets for the worst start in NBA history. This could be the most riveting storyline of the next month or two: will the Sixers win before the Warriors lose?

Now that’s a far more compelling question. The next good chance Philadelphia has for a win is in a week, when they’ll play the Lakers at home on December 1st. However, if they can’t end the streak then, they’ll only have one quality shot at a victory in the next month, when they play Brooklyn in the Barclays Center on December 10th.

After that, the next solid opportunity the Sixers will have for a win is a couple of road games against the Kings and Lakers on December 30th and January 1st, respectively. If Philadelphia still doesn’t have a victory after that, well, they’ll have to wait more than a month for another winnable game, when they host the Nets on February 6th.

I think the losing streak will end against the Lakers next week. It’ll actually be quite dramatic. Assuming the Sixers lose their next three games, they’ll sit at 0-18 heading into the game. To avoid the ignominious accomplishment of owning the worst start in NBA history, that Lakers game will be a must win.

To answer the original question, it seems as though the scheduling gods want Philadelphia to win before Golden State loses. However, if the Sixers keep on losing and the Warriors keep on winning, each team setting a new record each and every game, an amazing game will be set for January 30th.

On that date, the Sixers could be 0-45 and the Warriors could be 46-0 when the two teams meet for the first time this season for a game in Philadelphia. Although the odds are a million to one against it, if Philadelphia managed to get its first win by handing Golden State its first loss, well, that would just be awesome.

Can Anyone Stop the Warriors?

As Golden State nears a record-breaking 16-0 start to the season, it’s time to ask: Can anyone stop the Warriors?

In last night’s game against the Nuggets, the Warriors went to their super-small lineup. According to NBA.com, in two minutes, that lineup scored fourteen points. So, yeah, that’s pretty unstoppable.

That lineup consists of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, and Draymond Green and it’s unstoppable. All five players are capable three-point shooters, creating pristine spacing that they then take advantage of thanks to their unselfish passing. That’s what makes the Warriors so impossible to guard, and that’s how they’re able to score fourteen points in a mere two minutes.

However, many other teams could put out these sorts of lineups with five three-point shooters sharing the floor at once. What makes the Warriors unique is that they’re able to play five three-point shooters while surviving on defense.

How are they able to do this? Well, Green is the linchpin of the defense. Despite being only 6’7″, Green is capable of playing center. Without him, the rest of the scheme wouldn’t work at all.

Outside of Green, this lineup’s success stems from its incredible flexibility as all five of its members are between 6’3″ (Curry) and 6’8″ (Barnes). This similarity in size allows the team to switch at will, closing out on three point shooters, rotating around the floor to prevent drives to the basket, and being a whirring machine of defensive mayhem.

So many conversations concerning Golden State are about its offense, so to be contrarian we’ll focus on its defense. Let’s break down one crunch-time possession from Game 1 of last year’s Western Conference Finals that exhibits the system played to perfection, with Shaun Livingston in place of Andre Iguodala.

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With twelve seconds left on the shot clock, James Harden drives down the middle of the floor against Thompson. Notice how all possible passing lanes are walled off.

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Next, the ball gets poked away and Thompson and Green converge on Harden, trapping him in the corner. Barnes shifts off of Trevor Ariza in the opposite corner to guard Josh Smith next to the basket.

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Harden manages to pass it out of the double-team, into the middle of the floor, creating a momentary four-on-three advantage for the Rockets. However, while against a lesser team, Smith would have been left open in the middle, against the Warriors, Barnes is already there, stopping him from getting an easy shot off.

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Smith passes it out to Ariza in the corner, but Curry switches onto him, closing off a clear path to the rim. Livingston leaves Jason Terry (#31) alone to cover Curry’s man, Corey Brewer.

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Ariza drives to the rim, Curry hot on his tail, but Barnes is at the rim to meet him. The shot clock is down to four seconds, which pressures Ariza to attempt a shot. At this point, Terry is open, but if Ariza managed to somehow thread a pass through across the floor while in mid-air, Thompson would be able to close out on him.

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Ariza then fumbles the ball away and the Warriors close in. The ball gets knocked out of bounds and the Warriors get the turnover.

Just in the last twelve seconds of this possession, the Warriors are able to snuff out four threats (plus countless potential ones) by switching seamlessly.

It’s plays like these that great defenses excel at, all five players switching in unison, playing ferocious defense while still remaining under control. There’s nothing the Rockets could do to penetrate the swarming defense of the Warriors.

Even in the team’s starting lineup, with Andrew Bogut at center and Iguodala on the bench, the loss of some flexibility doesn’t prevent Golden State from keeping up the elite defense that was the best in the league last season by points per possession.

So far this year, Golden State has slipped all the way down to fifth in points per possession, and its offense is the best in the league, scoring 111.8 points per 100 possessions.

When a defense like this is paired with the best shooter in NBA history and a roster full of players who complement him perfectly, it’s hard to imagine the Golden State Warriors being beaten any time soon.

Catching Up on the NBA

My picks are already looking awful. Anthony Davis and Bradley Beal have been hurt. The Pelicans have been plagued by injuries. Washington has been average at best. Without Corey Brewer’s miracle three-point attempt to send last night’s game to overtime, the Rockets would be an atrocious 4-8. Nothing at all has been working out as planned so far.

Well, almost nothing. The Warriors have been customarily dominant. If you follow basketball at all, I’m sure you’ve seen amazing stats lauding the team for their historic achievements, but here’s one you probably haven’t heard: the Warriors are currently on pace to go 82-0, shattering the 72-10 mark set by the 1995-96 Bulls.

All jokes aside, Steph Curry has been insane. I’ve watched a few of Golden State’s games so far, and every time he takes a shot, it seems to be almost a technicality when it goes in. A couple of weeks ago, the Warriors were down to the Clippers late in the game, and Curry just took over and Los Angeles couldn’t do anything to stop him.

Curry’s the clear frontrunner for MVP at this point and he’s way ahead of the pack. Who can challenge him? LeBron is resting for the playoffs, Davis has been hurt, John Wall hasn’t been great, Kevin Durant has been hurt, and James Harden has been an inconsistent player on an inconsistent team. Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook are my 2-3 behind Curry, but who’s next? Honestly, it might be Andre Drummond. That’s just weird.

In other news: Young Kristaps is everyone’s new favorite player. Young Kristaps has been surprisingly great so far for the Knicks. For all the talk about how he’s a project and how he’s a year or two away, he’s been really really good. Earlier this week, he put up a 29-11 double-double on an efficient 17 shots. He’s been able to shoot threes effectively (including an almost game-winner against Charlotte that was just after time expired) while being a force down low. He’s thrown down a few monstrous put-back dunks (including this beauty against the Raptors) and has been able to serve both as a stretch-four when on the court with Robin Lopez and as a more conventional big man when playing alone.

I think it’s hilarious what’s been happening in Brooklyn so far this season. They’re absolutely, unequivocally atrocious and seem OK with it. That’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do. After all, tanking has worked in the past and the Sixers have been happy to lose again and again over the past few years in the hopes of landing a franchise player. However, the so-called “brain-trust” in Brooklyn seems to have forgotten one important detail: They don’t own their own pick. So while Brooklyn’s incessant losing will likely result in the acquisition of a franchise player, that franchise player will be heading to Boston as part of the Pierce-Garnett-Terry trade from a couple of years ago. While we’re here, I can’t get over how lopsided that trade was. Exploring the ramifications of that horrendous trade might be worth an article in the near future.

Anyways, as we can see, the NBA isn’t lacking in storylines. We haven’t talked at all about the competitive Rookie of the Year race or the exciting young teams coalescing in Orlando and Minnesota or Kobe Bryant’s quest to miss the most shots in the history of the NBA. We’ll discuss all of this, and more, in the future, but for now, let’s just enjoy the impending bloodbath between the Warriors and Clippers on national TV tonight.

Running Diary: Game 6 of the 2015 NBA Finals

This Game 6 has the chance to be legendary. The self-proclaimed (albeit universally acknowledged) best player in the world, carrying his broken-down team on his back, against the whirring machine of basketball perfection that is the Golden State Warriors? That’s compelling enough, appointment viewing, but adding in the tortured histories of the two franchises and the amazing basketball that’s been played so far this series makes this game warrant an official running diary.

I’ve done this a couple of times before, so you know the drill: I write down my reactions live, along with when they happen, as a way of recording what people were seeing, thinking, and feeling, at any given moment.

For the record, I have no real rooting interest in this game. I’m in a pool that I can win if the Cavs win tonight and lose Game 7. To hedge my bet, though, I bet with a friend on the Warriors in this game, so I don’t have any monetary interest in this game, leaving me free to root for a night of amazing basketball.

Anyways, the game is about to start, so let’s get to it!

9:11: And we’re off!

9:12: Interestingly enough, David Blatt is starting off with his twin towers, Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson, against Golden State’s small ball lineup. In it, Blatt is hoping that all the benefits of the super-size lineup, particularly the offensive rebounds, outweigh the huge negative of having Mozgov, a center, match up against Andre Iguodala, a wing player, on defense.

9:15: Well Thompson just got a lefty hook for two points by posting up the much smaller Harrison Barnes. Cleveland’s size advantage is paying off early.

9:19: And just now, a couple of possessions later, Iman Shumpert got an open corner three off a Mozgov post-up. He missed, but that’s the type of shot that the Cavs need to create from their physical advantage.

9:21: One of the best things about the NBA is the chess match that occurs when teams try to shift matchups in their favor. A couple of examples of this to watch out for are with LeBron and Steph Curry. Iguodala is the only Golden State player who can stick with LeBron, so the Cavs will likely run their star through a series of picks to force a smaller player to switch onto him for a LeBron post-up. Likewise, the Warriors will likely plan a bunch of Curry-Draymond Green and Curry-Iguodala pick-and-rolls to get a slow-footed big man, either Thompson or Mozgov, to switch onto Curry. Then, as he’s been doing all season, Curry can dazzle them with a bunch of awesome dribbles, then swish a step-back three.

9:24: Iguodala missed his first couple of shots and just played hot-potato with the ball, afraid to shoot an open three-pointer. Luckily Curry bailed him out by nailing a corner three, but if Iguodala can’t hit shots from outside, Mozgov, who’s ostensibly guarding him, can just stick around in the paint, mucking up the spacing integral to Golden State’s offense.

9:27: The Warriors just breathed a sigh of relief as Iggy just hit a couple of midrange jumpers.

9:28: Again, with the size advantage, Golden State doubled a Mozgov post-up, leading to a nifty pass in the post to Thompson for a dunk.

9:29: IGGY WITH THE HEAT CHECK!!! CORNER THREE!!!

9:37: End of first quarter check-in: Iggy has seven points and a drawn offensive foul against LeBron, the Cavs star has only four points on a mere six shots, and Golden State had a fifteen point lead at one point. Their record when they lead a game by fifteen points or more at any point? 57-0. Ethan Strauss astutely points out that, in addition to this impressive record in these games, even more impressively, the Warriors are undefeated, an astounding 82-0, when they score more points than their opponent.

9:41: We head into the second quarter with Golden State up 28-15.

9:42: James with a crazy fade-away three as the shot clock expires.

9:47: One thing to keep an eye out for: the Cavs have shot eleven free throws already, with about nine minutes left in the second quarter. Klay Thompson has three fouls as well, which could prove troublesome later on, and even now, as Steve Kerr sits him so he doesn’t pick up another foul.

9:52: Mozgov with the emphatic rejection of Iguodala.

9:53: The comparatively small Leandro Barbosa was just forced to switch onto LeBron, and James took it to the hole for two points. It’s this type of switch I was talking about earlier, with the Cavs attempting to get LeBron a physical advantage over his defender for easy points.

9:54: Shumpert slams his body into a Green screen, knocking him over, mirroring the same play with JR Smith from last game.

9:55: ABC just showed that play from Game Four. Wow, Green’s really been setting some great screens.

9:56: No flagrant for Shump, Golden State to inbound the ball.

9:59: Cleveland’s made a little bit of a run, coming back to within five points, 34-29, after a Shumpert jumper.

10:00: Some nifty passing from Golden State on a transition play, leading to an open three for Harrison Barnes. Golden State with the 37-29 advantage with 5:07 left in the first half.

10:07: The free throw disparity is impressive, 17-2 in favor of the Cavs, but they’re still down by eight points. Eight of those free throws are from Cleveland’s twin towers, including six from Mozgov. It’s clear that Golden State’s smaller players are struggling with the bigger Cavaliers, although they’re okay with it as they’re making up for those fouls on the offensive end.

10:08: Shumpert and Iguodala each just picked up their third fouls. This isn’t good for either team, straining Cleveland’s depth, and depriving the Warriors of the one player who can effectively defend LeBron one-on-one.

10:11: Speaking of James, compared to the lofty standards he’s set for himself, he’s been struggling so far this game, with only nine points and two assists.

10:13: LeBron with a beautiful drive past David Lee.

10:14: Curry with a nice left-handed finish in transition against JR Smith.

10:15: James nails a three. 43-38 in Golden State’s favor.

10:16: Curry makes a quick pass to escape a double team leading to a basket from Green.

10:17: With Iguodala on the bench, LeBron has been having his way with Shaun Livingston. After those last two shots and a couple of free throws, James just slipped a nifty low-post pass for a Thompson dunk.

10:19: With the last possession of the first half, James drives, throws up an off-balance shot and misses, but Tristan Thompson follows up with a thunderous slam with less than a second left. The half ends with Golden State clinging to a tenuous lead of two points over the resurgent Cavs, 45-43.

10:36: The game resumes, and Cleveland begins the second half with the ball.

10:37: Mozgov makes a layup to tie the game at 45, then Thompson hits a shot to take the lead for the Cavs. They’ve combined for 22 of Cleveland’s 47 points.

10:39: Barnes hits a three to put the Warriors back on top by one.

10:40: Barnes steals the ball from Shumpert. Iguodala gets the ball on the other end, fakes a pass, and slams it in for a dunk.

10:41: Green nails a three off of a pocket pass from Klay Thompson. Warriors by six. Blatt calls a timeout to regroup.

10:48: LeBron takes on Thompson for an easy basket, then heads back down the floor to grab his tenth rebound. He’s got a double-double with 6:41 left in the third quarter.

10:48: Thompson picks up his fourth foul and Kerr takes him out.

10:51: Curry gets a rebound, dribbles down the court, and throws a bounce pass to Iguodala for a dunk to make it 61-51. Blatt calls another timeout to try and stop the bleeding. The Warriors are on a 16-4 run right now.

10:59: A nice play from the Warriors. The Cavs double Curry off a pick-and-roll between him and Green, Curry slips a pass between them to Green, and Green lofts it up for an alley-oop to Festus Ezeli.

10:59: Curry misses a three but Ezeli crashes in for a booming dunk, even drawing an and-1 foul on Mozgov. Ezeli hits the free throw and the Warriors lead by fourteen, 69-55.

11:05: The game seems close to getting out of hand. Green just bullied James Jones in the post for a couple of points, and Golden State takes a fifteen point lead.

11:09: The third quarter ends, 73-61, Warriors.

11:10: LeBron looks exhausted. He’s still been great, but not his usual otherworldly self, with a couple of lackadaisical plays where he’s been caught just standing around.

11:12: The Cavs have a 43-27 edge in rebounding, a 29-13 edge in free throw attempts, and three of its players have double-doubles. Its main problem is that they’ve turned the ball over fourteen times, to Golden State’s six. When you factor in that Golden State thrives in the chaos in transition that ensues after turnovers, it’s no wonder that the Cavs are playing from behind.

11:15: Down thirteen, LeBron just says screw it, drives down the floor on Barnes, and hits a layup.

11:18: James steals a pass from Green, gallops down the floor, and rises up for the dunk! A 7-0 run from Cleveland brings them to within seven. 75-68, Warriors.

11:21: Curry swishes a three and the lead is back to double digits.

11:23: LeBron passes to Mozgov for a dunk, 78-70.

11:23: Livingston with a put-back dunk off an Iguodala miss, making it 80-70.

11:23: Smith with a three on one end but Iguodala comes back down the floor to nail a three to keep the lead at ten.

11:24: Mozgov physically overpowers Iguodala on his way to the rim for a basket, Warriors 83-75.

11:24: Curry with another three!!!

11:26: Klay Thompson finally hits a three off a nice feed from Curry and it’s 89-75.

11:28: The officials miss a backcourt violation on Curry and instead call a kick-ball on Shumpert, giving the Warriors the ball. Kerr calls a timeout with 6:09 remaining in the game. It’s 89-77 and the Cavaliers are running out of time.

11:32: Off the inbound, Draymond Green passes to Iguodala in the corner and Iggy hits the three. That’s Green’s tenth assist, giving him a triple-double.

11:35: Klay Thompson was just called for an offensive foul and fouls out. He’s got more fouls (6) than points (5). Assuming the Warriors don’t relinquish their thirteen point lead with 4:16 left in the game, Thompson’s performance will be forgotten by history. He’s lucky he’s not on the losing team.

11:43: A right hook for Tristan Thompson and the lead is down to eleven with 2:39 remaning.

11:44: Curry slips past Shumpert and drives to the hoop for an uncontested layup. It’s 98-85, and the Cavs call a timeout with 1:50 remaining.

11:49: JR Smith just nailed the second of two threes, bringing the Cavs to within eight. They’re down 100-92 with 55.2 seconds left.

11:54: LeBron drove for a layup, then the Cavs fouled Curry, but he only made one of his free throws. Then JR Smith came down the floor and hit another off-balance three. It’s 101-97!!!

11:56: Curry hits two free throws and Smith finally misses. Iggy is fouled, hits one of his free throws, and LeBron comes galloping down the floor, jukes his defender, and sets his feet for a wide-open three pointer which he then misses. After a couple of fouls and missed shots…

11:58: THE WARRIORS WIN 105-97

Three Important Notes:

  1. LeBron could not look more exhausted. He gave it his all and it just wasn’t enough. He could not have done anything more than he did.
  2. The Warriors just finished up one of the best seasons in the history of the NBA. They went 67-15 in the regular season, and 16-5 in the playoffs, for a combined record of 83-20, the third highest win total in NBA history, behind only Michael Jordan’s two best teams in Chicago.
  3. Steve Kerr deserves plaudits for his risky gamble in starting Iguodala over Andrew Bogut for the last three games of the series.. It worked out wonderfully, and with it, he dictated the pace of the game, the matchups therein, and won all three of those games, to win the series, and the championship.

The NBA never stops moving, though, and while the Warriors bask in the glow of their championship, the draft hype is about to go into overdrive. The draft is eight days from now, on June 25th, and we’ll be back in this format for the draft.

Until then, all we can do is applaud the Golden State Warriors and toast the marvelous 2014-2015 NBA season.

Onto the draft!

A Quick Word on the MVP Race

For the last few years, the MVP races have been somewhat dull. Since 2008 it’s been LeBron’s trophy to lose, and lose he rarely did. He captured four out of the six MVPs over the past six years. It’s taken either the whole basketball world collectively losing its mind over Derrick Rose, or Kevin Durant averaging a 32-7-5 on a 59-win team to wrest the award away from James. However, this year, with James missing a few games from nagging injuries and giving up shots and minutes to rest a little more, the race has suddenly been thrown wide open, and it’s anyone’s to win.

Before we can choose a winner, we have to decide what “most valuable” means, and that’s where the proposition gets murky. Everyone has their own opinion on what “most valuable” actually means. Here’s the brief rundown of each interpretation and the player it fits best.

The Best Player: The guy you would choose first in a draft to win a life-or-death pickup game.

Who? Who else but LeBron? When he goes all out, he’s unstoppable.

The Best Stats: Think Wilt. He averaged crazy stats back in the 60s but never led an elite team while he did so.

Who? Anthony Davis. A 24-10-2, with a steal and a half and three blocks a game on 53.7 percent shooting from the field and 80.2 percent from the line.

The Best Lines Night to Night: Huge triple-doubles, lots of blocks, etc.

Who? Russell Westbrook, obviously. That run of triple-doubles when Westbrook turned into Oscar Robertson for a few weeks (complete with the grumpy personality!) was jaw-dropping. He even turned in a few near quadruple-doubles when he turned the ball over seven or eight times.

The Best Player on the Best Team: This is usually the player who wins the award, as conventional logic concludes that the best team must have naturally had the best player.

Who? The Warriors are the best team and Steph Curry is their best player, so Curry would win.

The Most Valuable: This player carries his team nightly and succeeds despite little help.

Who? From night to night, James Harden has been the MVP. Curry can have a bad game and the Warriors can still win because he plays alongside an all-star (Klay Thompson), a rim-protecting big man (Andrew Bogut), and a DPOY candidate (Draymond Green). When Harden doesn’t show up to play, who’s going to pick up the slack? Trevor Ariza? Corey Brewer?

Of those different interpretations of MVP, who is most likely to win the award? James won’t win because he’s missed twelve games this year, and possibly because he stacks up poorly against past versions of himself. Davis won’t win because he’s also missed time, fourteen games, and his team wasn’t elite. Westbrook won’t win for the same reason, missing fifteen games, although he gets the edge over Davis in my opinion because of the insane lines he’s put up.

Harden and Curry, to me, are the clear frontrunners for the award. I think Harden deserves it because of his consistency, the extra load he’s shouldered (about 350 more minutes than Curry), and his irreplaceability to the Rockets.

However, Curry’s Warriors are going to win 67 games (assuming they beat the Nuggets at home tomorrow night), tied for the sixth-highest win total in NBA history, and a record on par with legendary teams such as the ’86 Celtics, the ’92 Bulls, and the ’00 Lakers (and the immortal ’07 Mavs who lost in the first round). With the historical clout that record provides, it’s Curry’s trophy to lose. Interestingly enough, the best player on each of those four 67-win teams (Bird, Jordan, Shaq, and Dirk) all won the MVP that year, providing precedent for a Curry victory.

Whatever happens, it should be an exciting cap to an exciting race. Onto the playoffs!