Over the last two dominant seasons by the Golden State Warriors, the strategy for slowing them down has been to make the game less flashy and more grimy.
So is it surprising that Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley embellished a first-quarter foul of Stephen Curry during Game 1 of their first-round playoff series? No.
Should we expect Beverley to tone it down? Of course not.
That’s playoff basketball, and the Warriors can expect more of the same as they try to cap their record-breaking season with a second consecutive NBA championship.
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The shoves between Beverley and Curry that resulted in double technical fouls were the equivalent of love taps – nothing close to a brawl, but a reminder that postseason games can get chippy.
The Warriors know this is opponents’ strategy. And for a team supposedly based on jump shooting and finesse, they’re fine with physical play.
You have to be physical, period. If you’re going to defend anyone, if you’re going to stop anyone, you’ve got to be physical. All the great defenses are. There’s never been a good finesse defense.
Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff
“For me, he doesn’t try to hurt me or do anything like that,” Curry said of Beverley after the Warriors’ 104-78 win in Game 1 Saturday. “But there is going to be physicality and some back and forth. Hopefully, the league doesn’t go in another direction where that’s not a part of playoff basketball. I hope we don’t get a tech every game, but I like that back and forth.”
The exchange with Curry quickly turned Beverley into the most hated Rocket at Oracle Arena. He was booed whenever his name was announced.
Golden State expects the same approach from Beverley in Game 2 Monday night. If anything, Beverley and his teammates should be even more on edge with a 1-0 deficit, and if an injured ankle sidelines Curry – he was listed as questionable Sunday – this might be the Rockets’ best chance to win a game in the series.
Beverley has made a name for himself with borderline dirty play.
“A guy like Pat, you kind of grow to expect that,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “That’s how he’s made his way in this league. ... Now he’s got his contract, but he still plays the exact same way. So I have respect that they stay true to who they are.”
Nevertheless, the Warriors aren’t about to let anyone take shots at Curry. They know opponents are coming after their superstar. When Beverley initiated the rough play, Green ran to Curry’s defense.
Green also set a hard screen on Beverley shortly thereafter, drawing a foul but more importantly sending Beverley to the floor hard.
For me, he doesn’t try to hurt me or do anything like that. But there is going to be physicality and some back and forth.
Warriors guard Stephen Curry, on the Rockets’ Patrick Beverley
“We don’t mind playing physical,” Houston interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We don’t mind the other team playing physical. The game shouldn’t be dirty by any means – I don’t think the other side will do that – but there is nothing wrong with playing physical.”
Houston must play physically because it can’t match the Golden State’s skill and three-point shooting.
The Warriors aren’t a passive defensive team, and with the likes of Green and Andrew Bogut, they will take the fight to the opposition. So if the Rockets aren’t aggressive, this series probably will be over in four games.
“You have to be physical, period,” Bickerstaff said. “If you’re going to defend anyone, if you’re going to stop anyone, you’ve got to be physical. All the great defenses are. There’s never been a good finesse defense.”