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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Meltdown for the Ages

Echos of the New England Patriots infamous meltdown in Superbowl XLII to the New York Giant, We now have another historical meltdown in Sports.  This time the Golden State Warriors are in an apparent meltdown  in the Western Conference Finals contest with the OKC Thunder.  Maybe we'll all wake up from this nightmare Next week after the Warriors, fresh off their record setting season, shake of this upstart team which recovered from the brink of disaster agasint the San Antonio Spurs and dominated a team that had the second best season in the league.

Or perhaps the reality is that both Greg Popovich and Steve Kerr have been outcoached.  Not that Billy Donovan is without a resume. It's just that he's building his NBA resume right now, and he's doing it with poise, determination, grit and toughness, and his team has followed suit demonstrating exaclty those same qualities.

On the other end of the spectrum, Steve Kerr seems completely uncomfortable steering the Warriors to the inevitable NBA championship that they were destined to win.  If Steve Kerr was to be completely honest, he cannot blame the floundering of his team to unispired play by Steff Curry and Draymon Green, though it is a convenient excuse.  The fact is that Steve Kerr began hedging about repeating as champions long before the record-setting season was on the books.

Granted, it's difficult to repeat as champions in the NBA.  The league has a gruelingly long regular season and NBA basketball is a contact sport in every sense.  Players get banged up and injured to the point of immobility each year.  But, by all appearances, the Golden State Warriors waltzed into these 2016 playoffs at the peak of health and running like a well-oiled machine, winning game after game with style and flair. But the playoffs are a different creature and these Golden State Warriors should know that every team brings its best effort to the playoffs and Coaches are determined to make adjustments and coax the very best out of every player on the roster -- even for role-players who rarely make it off the bench in the regular season.  Terry Stotts out-witted Steve Kerr to a degree  in no less than 11 quarters of play over 5 games.  Now Billy Donovan is demonstrating full command of all of the weapons in his arsenal -- the formidable weapons that he has on his roster as well as the weapons in his playbook and his strategies. Steve Kerr has been reduced to a bystander -- bewildered by his players' unmotivated performance and acting visibly frustrated and anything but poised on the sidelines -- out-witted, out-muscled, out-hungried, out-coached.  Perhaps after two games in Oakland, we'll be able to look back at this as an aberration.  But for now, these Golden State Warriors are a team that has been out-coached.

Ultimately the puzzle to be solved is: Team Defense.  Certainly Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are incredible offensive weapons, but it is always said that Defense wins championships.  Golden state has ruled the league not only with its spectacular offensive prowess fueled by 3-point field goals thrown in from nearly ever spot on the court.  It is important to recognize the defensive mastery that the Splash Brothers, Draymon Green, Andre Iguodala and the rest of the cast have displayed in every one of he magical 73-win season.  That team defense translated into an amazing transition game and many easy baskets.  Without fabulous team defense, Steph Curry doesn't score 17 points in overtime against Portland in Game #4 of that series.