Warriors in a rout — but remember the Memorial Day Massacre
9:29 AM
Art Spander in Spurs, Warriors, articles, basketball

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — It was known as the Memorial Day Massacre. The Boston Celtics, at home, crushed the Los Angeles Lakers, 148-114, on Memorial Day 1985 in the opening game of the NBA finals.

What a rout. What a flop by the Lakers, who once more seemed destined to fail.

But it was only one game. And in basketball, as they say, the next one begins 0-0. And the Lakers won that game, and the third game, and defying tradition won the title in six games, the ultimate victory coming at the “massacre” site, Boston Garden.

Thirty-two years ago, of course, but as current as today, a reminder that nothing is certain, not even if you beat the Lakers by 34 points. Or if you whip the San Antonio Spurs by 36 points, 136-100, as the Warriors did on Tuesday night at Oracle Arena in Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference finals.

Sure, the Warriors, up two games to none, are in control. Or it would seem that way. The Spurs, after squandering a 25-point lead Sunday and being edged, were helpless Tuesday night. They were behind 33-16 after a quarter, and it got worse. A mismatch. Yet it was just one game.

Now the series moves to San Antonio for Game 3 on Saturday, and maybe Kawhi Leonard returns for the Spurs. And maybe the intensity and spirit return as well. At home and obviously in desperation, the Spurs will be a factor instead of a disaster.

“It’s a good team,” acting Warriors coach Mike Brown said of San Antonio. “I think they went on the road and beat Houston in a Game 6 (of the conference semis) where they didn’t have Kawhi.”

After that tentative warning, Brown pointed out that for the Warriors, with seven men scoring in double figures, with a defense that kept the Spurs to 37 percent, with a relentlessness evident from start to finish, “This was a good game.””

Not because the Dubs pushed the lead to 41 points near the end. Not because they made 18 of 37 three-pointers (yes, Steph Curry was the main man with 8 of 13 and 29 points, but Kevin Durant had 6 of 10 and 16 points). Rather, because of how they played, as compared to what they did.

“It doesn’t matter how many points you win by,” said Brown, who before the game was able to confer on site with the recovering Steve Kerr, for whom he is subbing.

“Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you lose because sometimes things can just fall the other team’s way, but you do things the right way. So more than anything, yes, we want to win. But it’s how you play, too ... The score doesn’t really matter. It’s how we got to the score. It’s how we played defensively to the Spurs.“

They were missing Leonard, who re-injured his ankle stepping on the foot of the Warriors' Zaza Pachulia on Sunday. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said it was a dirty play by Pachulia. Maybe fate was listening. Pachulia left Tuesday’s game after roughly seven minutes because of a heel bruise.

Still more than Kawhi, Popovich suggested, the Spurs were missing their fire.

Tonight was not what I expected,” he said. “I’m disappointed. The only way I can process this is, I think, it’s not about X’s and O’s or rebounds or turnovers or anything like that. I think maybe we felt (Leonard’s absence) too much, Kawhi being gone, in the sense that, as I watched, I don’t think they believed. 

“And you have to believe. I don’t think as a group they really did, which means probably feeling sorry for themselves psychologically, subconsciously, whatever psycho-babble word you want to use ... I don’t think they started the game with a belief ... When you’re playing a team that’s as good as Golden State, you’re going to get embarrassed if that’s the way you come out. And we did. We didn’t come to play.”

The Warriors came, and they played, and they looked like the best team in the league, never mind the best team on the floor. It was the Warriors, flowing, racing, dominating, winning by 36 points.

But it was just one game.

Article originally appeared on Art Spander (http://artspander.com/).
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