Programming note: Watch "Warriors Playoff Central" Monday at 5 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, and immediately after the final horn in Game 4. Both shows will be streamed live right here. CHANNEL LISTINGS
HOUSTON -- The last burning question to address in this now-smoldering Western Conference Finals is a relatively simple one, namely:
What happens if the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers have to wait eight days between games before they start their series?
And yes, that is not only putting the cart before the horse, but putting it at the destination while the horse is still in the stable.
But this is what Golden State and Houston have left us after Saturday night’s 115-80 garroting at the Toyota Center. It isn’t so much that the Warriors look invincible, but that the Rockets look like they have no more answers to the questions the Warriors have asked. They were perplexed, schooled, blitzed and then humiliated Saturday night, all the way down to the sub-molecular heckling fan lever, which as we all know is the last vestige of resistance before surrender terms are exchanged.
So it as in the second quarter when the middle-aged man in the Vernon Maxwell throwback jersey (and there’s a mixed metaphor for the ages right there) seated at courtside decided to get a few words in at Stephen Curry’s expense while Curry was preparing to inbound the ball. At the time, the Warriors were ahead by a margin in the mid-teens but Curry hadn’t turned the game into his personal paint-and-easel set yet, so it seemed the perfect time for Basketball Einstein to tell him how poor a player he really was.
Thirty-some-odd points later, the response had been codified.
“That’s a dude who shouldn’t be allowed back into the building,” Draymond Green said as he smiled knowingly. “The Rockets should not let him back in at all, and give his ticket to someone else. Because when he gets that look . . . “
Yes, yes, we know. We have seen the look. Even people who refuse to consider staying up beyond 11 p.m. to watch television have now seen the look. You irritate Stephen Curry only as a prelude to a rarefied level of psychological masochism; otherwise, you remain silent for your own good.
But that is a lesson that is too late for the Rockets to benefit from, as they are now too deep into their own relative inadequacies to muster the kind of fight that could force a return trip in five days. Even if they fix what ails them in Game 4 Monday, Game 5 in Oakland is merely a cruel reward.
Which brings to the next logical conundrum that really isn’t – namely, what happens if the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers both sweep their series and leave the league with nine days of ginned-up Curry vs. LeBron narratives to fill? This double-sweep scenario, which has only happened one time and that was in 1957, is much to be avoided, at least by the league office. After all, it’s not easy to get film of the St. Louis Hawks, Minneapolis Lakers, Boston Celtics and Syracuse Nationals that works in HD. Or even color.
Not that the teams mind, of course. Both sides can use the rest, and seem unfazed by the potential for rust or rhythmic disruption. The Warriors handled a five-hour flight delay with a 35-point skull-cracking, and the Cavs had matched them stride for stride, sweeping Boston (the Warriors’ New Orleans), going six games with Chicago (the Warriors’ Memphis) and are on the verge of sweeping a crippled Atlanta team, so they’re both probably good with a home-and-home series on the surface of the sun.
The league, though, is already rumored to be speaking in early and very theoretical terms with ABC about bumping up the Finals by a couple of days if the Warriors and Cavs complete their tasks in minimal time. Among the potential scenario (cq) being discussed would bump the start of the Finals to June 2 (rather than June 4), and then go Thursday (4) in Oakland, then Sunday (7) and Tuesday (9) in Cleveland, and the if-necessary games would begin June 11 in Oakland.
But nothing of lasting commitment has been agreed to, because after all, ABC is a major television network, they have their own needs and desires, and besides, you know how those people can be.
As we said, this is exceedingly premature, but we have reached the stage in both series where exceedingly premature is actually borderline prudent. Both the Warriors and Cavaliers have put oppressive stamps on their series, and one’s mind goes immediately to “What comes next” when the “What comes now” has stopped being a mystery.
After all, if you can’t get middle-aged men who think wearing jerseys in public are a good idea to disrupt the other guy’s best player with an improvised display of rapier-like drunk-wit, what ideas have you left in reserve?