All My Homies Hate The Warriors

The Golden Gate Bridge isnt even gold; its International Orange.

The Golden Gate Bridge isn’t even gold; it’s International Orange.

Marshall Lehman, Online and Perspectives Editor

For some reason, I love the Boston Celtics. It’s hard for me to explain why I feel this way because neither I nor anyone in my family is from, let alone lived in, Boston, but I view it the same way Ms. Wakeland validates the homework load: that’s just the way it is.

This summer, I had the painful pleasure of watching my team reach the NBA Finals, only to be dismantled in six games by the Golden State Warriors. I was in Europe for the first couple games, so at least I was rewarded with the only two wins of the series for my efforts of waking up at three in the morning to huddle in the corner of a hotel room and stare deadpan at my phone screen.

I never truly had a quarrel with the Warriors before this year. I became a devout fan of the NBA during the 2019 Playoffs. At the time, I thought I was watching Kawhi Leonard’s historic championship run with the Toronto Raptors, but in retrospect, I was observing the last time I would feel impartial, maybe even sympathetic, towards the Warriors.

I wouldn’t say that I’m a hateful person, but with protagonists come antagonists. For example, I wear green, so therefore I despise the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers. They did nothing to me personally, but every time I see Joel Embiid’s face, I relish in the fact that he will only ever finish 2nd in MVP voting.

Regardless of how I feel about the Free-Throw Duo in Philly or Le33-49 situation in LA, I can’t get my mind off Steph Curry and his goons. I spent days of my life watching the Warriors knock out all three of the teams that I was rooting for this year in the postseason: the Memphis Grizzlies, the Dallas Mavericks, and, of course, the Boston Celtics.

I wasn’t too heartbroken about the Grizzlies’ loss in the second round. They had a surprisingly successful regular season going 56-26 with an extremely young roster. I never expected them to go far due to their inexperience, but I was cheering for the success of Desmond Bane who averaged 18.8 points per game on 48.9% efficiency from behind the arc in the postseason. I remember notifying my mother that the Grizzlies had lost in six games to the Warriors. She took off her glasses and stared at me inquisitively. “Didn’t someone on the Warriors go to Davidson? Stephon? Steven? What’s his name, Marshall?” she asked me. I reminded her that, yes, Stephen Curry did play for Davidson, and my mother, being a Davidson graduate, grabbed on tight to that fact, claiming him as her own. Over the coming weeks, whenever I would mention one of my team’s shortcomings to the Warriors, she’d give a little cheer and remind me that Steve Curry played for Davidson.

The Western Conference Finals brought me to my breaking point. Dallas fans were riding high from a blowout Game 7 against the number one seeded Phoenix Suns, only to have their disposition destroyed by Andrew Wiggins. His Game 3 dunk on Luka Dončić had me ready to suit up in my freshman team basketball jersey because anyone would have been a better big man than Dwight Powell. Even though I’ve shot 0-1 from three-point range in my Country Day career, I’d be a more valuable teammate than half the roster simply because I can embrace the one rule of Dallas basketball: get the ball to Dončić.

With security in the Center position for this upcoming season, I am now able to clearly see the Mavericks’ hamartia. Dallas breathed new life late in the Suns series because they were able to effectively switch defensive schemes in a matter of days. In the first two games, the Suns took advantage of screens to get an isolation possession between a nimble Devin Booker and Dončić, a man who is often confused with 50-year-old Adam Sandler. These plays would regularly result in an easy bucket for Phoenix and Dončić begging for a timeout. Starting in Game 3, however, the Mavs stopped switching on defense, but still showed Dončić to the ball handler before returning to his matchup. The Suns still attempted to use their method of continuous screens to get a weak defender on Booker or Chris Paul, but instead of conceding to the screens, Dončić would defend the ball handler for a few seconds until their man returned from fighting screens. This defensive scheme forced the Suns to reorchestrate their offense in later games because they wasted too many positions stumped by the Mavs’ deft ability to reset their defense. This was just the tip of the defensive iceberg for Dallas. Once they dealt with the screening problem, they were able to organize off-ball matchup switches which resulted in repeated turnovers and bad shots by Phoenix. This defensive genius on behalf of Mavericks Head Coach Jason Kidd and coordination between Dallas players was nowhere to be found in the Warriors series.

Between a bigotous, stagnant Dallas defense and the perimeter centric weapon that is the Warrior’s offense, the Mavs never stood a chance in the series. High pick-and-rolls between Warriors’ big men and Curry or Jordan Poole forced the Mavs into an uncomfortable help-defense, something that they weren’t prepared for coming off a series with a team that depended upon iso-plays for points. The Mavs did all that they could to adjust to the Warriors’ offensive talent, but when you solve Curry’s 3-point shooting, you’re then encountered with the problem of Klay Thompson’s mid-range game, Wiggins’ inside finishing abilities, and Kevon Looney’s offensive rebounding. It gives me nightmares thinking about the offensive potential of the Warriors.

Of course, I was sad to watch the Mavericks get knocked out of the Playoffs by the same team that also eliminated the Grizzlies, but there was no time for mourning. The Celtics had been having a tremendous postseason, sweeping the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, eliminating the defending champ Milwaukee Bucks in 7, and had just defeated the number one seeded Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. They’d been playing the best they ever had since Kyrie Irving was on the team; their defense was ranked number one in the league thanks to Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III, who finished 7th in DPOY voting. During the EFC, Jayson Tatum, the Celtics’ star player, was ridiculed on social media for his adulation of the ghost of Kobe Bryant, but I was ride or die with this team. 

I seriously thought that the Celtics had a chance to win it all. I had so much confidence in the Celtics from their 2022 Playoffs resume, but I forgot that it’s the Warriors we’re talking about. The same Warriors who have five consecutive Finals appearances. The same Warriors who have won three championships in the past seven years with generally the same core players. The same Warriors who hold the NBA’s best single season record, going 73-9. The same Warriors who were scripted by Commissioner Adam Silver to win the 2022 NBA championship over the Boston Celtics. They were destined to lose.

My analysis of the Celtics’ downfall in the 2022 NBA Finals is pretty simple; Jayson Tatum had an offensive meltdown and Steph Curry played like the undisputed Finals MVP. Tatum only averaged 21.5 ppg in the Finals whereas he averaged 26.7 throughout the regular season. In addition, his rebounding numbers and field goal percentage were down. Even his box +/- took a hit, sinking into negative digits. In contrast to the media’s narrative that the Celtics’ glaring issue is that Tatum is too young to be the best player on a championship roster, Curry was the true instigator for Boston’s loss. The man averaged 31.2 ppg while shooting 43.7% from the 3-point line on 11.8 attempts per game, earning him the Bill Russell Finals MVP award.

Starting this season, Tatum has already made changes in his life to bring the Cs back to the Finals. He attributed his decline in performance late in the Playoffs to fatigue, and to combat this, Tatum has hired a private chef to prepare him three meals per day and has since sworn off fried food, much like a middle-aged woman during New Years. For a superstar like Tatum, I think the best thing they can do for themselves is condition and preserve their body. The Minnesota Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards is a prime example of this. At the time of writing this article, Edwards has zero in-game dunks. He chalks it up to the paint being too clogged with 7’1” Rudy Gobert and 7’ Karl Anthony Towns on the floor, but Towns believes it’s due to Edwards not taking proper care of his body. Edwards entered training camp over his usual in-season weight, intending to play himself into shape. It’s a flawed system. Even I, on the freshman basketball team, could recognize a difference in my athletic performance when I worked during the off-season in comparison to leaving school early to go eat ice cream sandwiches. I digress.

The moral of the story is that I, as well as every basketball fan in Memphis, Dallas, and Boston, hate the Warriors. The Celtics are back with vengeance this year, and I’m excited to watch them play, just not against my other two teams. I hope to see another Warriors-Celtics matchup in the Finals again, just so Marcus Smart can send them home in 4, tears falling and bruises festering.