Ray Ratto

Rockets-Warriors is finally a series -- we just have no idea how to make it make sense

Rockets-Warriors is finally a series -- we just have no idea how to make it make sense

So after seven games in the Western Conference Finals, including the four Tuesday night, this series is tied at two games each.

The Golden State Warriors won by nine and 17 points. The Houston Rockets won by 16 and 13. Each team covered the spread twice, and Houston got extra credit for scoring 25 of the last 35 points en route to a 95-92 no-rules cage match victory in Oakland.

Now based on what you’ve seen, go ahead and make sense of Game 5 Thursday night. I dare you to try.

This game was not only the closest of the eight conference finals games so far, it was the most bizarre of the postseason, and one of the three or four most aggressively wack of the entire season. And depending on how you choose your wardrobe, this was either a triumph of Houston’s ornery nature or a monument to Golden State’s gift for offensive impatience and Curry-less confusion.

Most likely both, to be honest, which means there will be very little linear basketball played in the final two or three games. Ruined possessions will bleed, turnovers will be stab wounds, missed shots will flay the skin off your head and not getting off shots in time because a play has been destroyed at its inception will be coin of the realm.

Elegance, you see, has probably run its course in this series, and the less elegant the game, the better Houston will like it.

And no excuses are allowed, because both teams had multiple opportunities to break the game to their separate wills. The Warriors missed Andre Iguodala because of a leg bruise, and Curry because of foul trouble (though he completely repo’d the third quarter as he did in Game 3, scoring 17 points and going 5-of-8 from three), but Golden State still took two separate 12-point leads, one in the first and one in the fourth quarter, which should have been sufficient.

And three years ago it would have been. And one year ago, the first lead would have held up.

But then it all decomposed in the fourth, because Golden State lost the ability to sustain a coherent offense. They missed 13 of their final 15 shots and their last seven three-pointers, many of them either hurried, challenged or at the end of mangled possession. That they only committed three turnovers in going from ahead 82-70 to done, 95-92, is amazing, but the resemblances to the implosion at the end of Game 7 of the 2016 Finals against Cleveland are hard to miss.

And like that collapse, this was driven in part by Houston’s toughminded mean-spiritedness, at least when it wasn’t powered by their meanminded toughspiritedness. Houston deserved to lose by a considerably deflating margin after the odd quarters, but like most games, this one ended on an even quarter, and this time with the Rockets standing boldly on Golden State’s regal neck.

Kevin Durant scored an almost distasteful 27 points on 24 shots, never finding anything even close to a rhythm. Even worse, Klay Thompson had his third unimpressive shooting performance and added a knee bruise that could have been even more serious. Worse, Steve Kerr had to play his starters almost the entire third quarter to get back into the game and create a margin the Warriors thought would be sufficient in the fourth.

Instead, the exertion of the third quarter bit them in the fourth, and the 80 Percent Hamptons Five – Durant, Thompson, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry – ended up playing a whopping 166 total minutes, including 45 by Green and 43 by Durant.

But Houston has not only shortened its rotation but actually eliminated it. Four of their five starters played more than 40 minutes, led by P.J. Tucker’s 44, and Eric Gordon played 34 as one of only two players to come off Mike D’Antoni’s bench. Everybody’s hurt, everyone is tired, and nobody cares. You do, or you do not, period.

If momentum between games exists, it has been impossible to find in this series, thus there is no guarantee that Game 5 will play in any particular way. Each team has split its home games with a vengeance, a major deviation from the playoff-long trend of home dominance, and now the job gets hard – for the Warriors, Oklahoma City-in-2016-level hard, and for the Rockets, ain’t-never-been-here-before hard.

In other words, we finally have a series. We just have no idea how to make it make sense.

The Kings are the Kings, Myers can't swindle in second round and thesaurus reigns supreme

The Kings are the Kings, Myers can't swindle in second round and thesaurus reigns supreme

When the biggest news to emanate from the NBA Draft is Adrian Wojnarowski’s thesaurus, you have a bad draft.
 
When the second biggest news is Sacramento bowing to the wishes of Luka Doncic (and the Kings did just that, we are sure) as another reminder of its place in the basketball universe, you have a bad draft.
 
When the third biggest news is that nobody wanted to talk to Bob Myers about selling their second-round pick to the Golden State Warriors because . . . well, just because, you have a bad draft.
 
When the fourth biggest news is which draftee’s mom is the hottest, you have a bad (and oddly creepy) draft.
 
And when the most compelling stories coming out of the draft are still LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Dwight Howard, you have a bad draft.
 
In ten years you may find, of course, that this was actually a 2009-level (as in great) draft for future stars, and all the other stuff will no longer matter. But that is the case of most things these days – they seem like big deals for about 24 hours and end up being nothing of import.
 
In short, as entertainment, this NBA Draft was that rare flatliner. The league is apparently much better at roasting money, the time for which begins shortly, or maybe our tastes as voyeurs are changing.
 
The Warriors got in Jacob Evans, the 6-6 wing from Cincinnati, a sort of poor man’s Draymond Green (which is a compliment, and an almost rave review for a 28th pick), but the greater development Warriors-wise was Bob Myers’ inability to sweet-talk a second-rounder out of money-hungry competitors. This may be a sign that nobody wants to touch the Warriors as a trading partner, at least until they are no longer considered enemies of the people, or maybe people are coveting draft choices more than they used to do.
 
As for the Kings, they went for Marvin Bagley III largely because he was the highest rated player who went for them. Doncic was largely considered the superior choice, and Michael Porter’s troublesome back worried too many teams (he ended up falling to 14 and Denver), but Bagley wanted to be the second pick if he couldn’t be first, which made his appeal to the Kings clear.
 
But it did nothing to dispel the largely held notion by many players and/or agents that Sacramento is to be avoided by any means necessary, and not because the city is demonstrably worse than any of about 20 other NBA outposts. It is because the perception remains that ultimately, the Kings are gonna King.
 
Thus ends another NBA show, with minimal effervescence or lasting effect. It was a great draft for the purist, if that matters to you, but the truth remains that LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard are going to blot out the sun this summer. It is a victory for the status quo.
 
That is, unless you have a rooting interest in the Adrian Wojnarowski-fought-the-law story line, and frankly, you shouldn’t.
 

Yelp reviews for Ayesha Curry's restaurant in Houston just plain mean-spirited sabotage disguised as hyperfandom

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AP

Yelp reviews for Ayesha Curry's restaurant in Houston just plain mean-spirited sabotage disguised as hyperfandom

There is always a good reason to despair for humanity these days. Humanity is, on the whole, performing at a Baltimore Orioles/Arizona Coyotes/New York Jets level, and needs a serious makeover if it is to last through the current millennium.

The latest example of this is in Houston, where local Rockets fans have decided to flood Yelp, the only populist reviewing site, with reviews slagging the new barbecue restaurant opening in town that is owned by megachef Michael Mina and Ayesha Curry, wife of Him.

The key here being that the restaurant hasn’t actually opened yet, so these reviews are meant only to ruin a business run by someone whose husband has a nice jump shot and who otherwise has never meant anyone any harm (although I can’t vouch for the coleslaw).

This is a gentler modification of the campaign by Kentucky fans who tried to ruin referee John Higgins’ roofing company in Nebraska in 2017, and then doubled down with death threats, because Kentucky basketball is that kind of a thing.

Now Warriors fans, who have the same problems with excessive free time that Rockets fans evidently do, have flooded Yelp with five-star reviews of the restaurant, which is no more open for their expertise than that of the Houston fans. In other words, this is one more example of how technology and democracy are wasted on people like us.

The argument has been advanced that Curry somehow invited this by opening up a restaurant in a town that has been bedeviled by her husband’s accuracy for four years now, but this is grandiloquent nonsense. The Kentucky fans showed us that state boundaries are no deterrent to such hate-fueled Internet hijinks, and I have unwavering faith that Rockets fans would have done this if she and Mina had opened their restaurant on the surface of Io. And that Warrior fans would have responded similarly.

Now maybe this is an old guy’s argument (and in the spirit of transparency, I have never met Ayesha Curry or eaten a morsel of her food-based products, so I am aggressively indifferent to her future, good or ill, as a pan jockey), but back in the day the traditional way of objecting to a restaurant was not to patronize it, and when sufficiently aggrieved to give it bad word of mouth. But that was always in response to a poor meal, inadequate service or hygiene shortcomings. That was presumably the idea behind Yelp – to widen the sensible review base.

But in all such cases, the establishment had actually plated a meal and delivered it to the customer before people took to their keyboards or not-so-smartphones to register their views. This strategy is just plain mean-spirited sabotage disguised as hyperfandom, and is one of the reasons why people who take the extreme view that fans suck are not entirely off-base.

The clear solution here would be for Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta and general manager Daryl Morey to attend the grand opening of the joint and chow down in earnest. They don’t have to rave about it, or even comment about it. They just need to be seen doing so, and when asked by a member of TMZ’s guerilla restaurant desk after the meal what they thought, they should say this:

“We are pro-Houston, and we are pro-business. We want everyone’s businesses to succeed, including this one. If you like us, and you do, you’ll leave these folks be, to make their eatery survive or fail on the merits. Oh, and be sure to try the brisket.”

Reason: We wouldn’t want Warrior fans to get the idea that Fertitta’s restaurants should be similarly attacked, or that they should start smearing his casinos simply because he owns the Rockets. Because once this starts, it never stops, because our culture has taken the greatest information delivery system and turned it into a gigantic hate farm.

There. Wasted lecture over. And yes, by all means, do try the brisket, even if your outraged sensibilities about the Western Conference Final allow only to do take-out.