Warriors, Sharks Highlight Playoff Momentum Differences

Two days ago, the San Jose Sharks lost to the Vegas Golden Knights by a touchdown, and were so physically and emotionally destroyed by the experience they won 4-3 in double overtime Saturday.

Which brings us to the Golden State Warriors, who opened their rapidly anticipated series with the New Orleans Pelicans performing the Vegas role to a T.

By curb-stomping the Pelicans in Game 1, 123-101, they took all the pre-series hype and kneed it in the delicates. There was almost no Warrior who played poorly and almost no Pelican who played well. The Warriors beat them offensively in the first 18 minutes and defensively for the next 18, showing the Seabirds that they would not be granted the freedom of movement they got from Portland in the first-round series sweep.

In other words, they did what they are always expected to do, only with a sternness of purpose that morphed as the night went on into stress-free playing joy. They looked, well, like the Warriors on the promotional brochures.

Just like the Golden Knights...who, well, you know.

Golden State opened its hectic day by announcing that Stephen Curry was not yet fully on the boil and would remain on the stove for another game. Instead, they heated quickly and stayed at 450 degrees the entire night, melting New Orleans' momentum from the Portland series in approximately 19 minutes.

Draymond Green and Kevin Durant each outplayed Anthony Davis, and there's no way to make the numbers or the eyes say anything different. Klay Thompson got all the best of Jrue Holiday, plus 10. Kevon Looney provided 15 difference-making minutes, and Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston found acres of space in which to widen the advantage, while Nawlins point guard Rajon Rondo was essentially reduced to the guy who couldn't make everyone else better because they had all their better snatched away.

In all, the Pelicans and all their momentum agreed to roster surrender terms with 8:15 left in the fourth, down 109-82, and everything that happened after that was merely contractual. I mean, they'd sold the ad time and everything.

Which brings us to Game 2 Tuesday night, and the notion that what you just saw is what you will continue to see. Let's put it this way – it's not the way to bet.

These were the Warriors at their ferocious and focused best, emotionally, strategically, physically and attitudinally. They played as though the Pelicans had come to rob the company safe, and removed everything listed as a New Orleans strength after their sweep of Portland. And yes, the Warriors can do this again, especially if as expected they are Curry-enriched two nights from now.

But the playoffs are littered with example of teams that took a whippin' and then whipped back. The Warriors did this little dance twice two years ago, winning Game 2 of the 2016 Western Conference final against Oklahoma City by 27, then losing Game 3 by 28 and Game 4 by 24...

...and won the series anyway.

Then they beat Cleveland in Game 1 of the Finals by 15 and Game 2 by 33, lost Game 3 by 30 and won Game 4 in Cleveland by 11...

...and lost the series anyway.

In other words, the Warriors provide their own cautionary tale to the dangers of recency bias. New Orleans has a lot to do in the next three days to regain their equilibrium, but only a fool thinks they cannot. Unless their superb play in the last 30 games was a mirage, or Golden State's far less cheery play in their last 30 games was a mirage, Game 2 is not going to look like Game 1.

And if it does...well, there's history for that, too. The Warriors won by 12, 29, 6, 25, 12, 11, 11, 26, 2, 36, 12, 14, 22, 19, 5 and 9, and slipped in a 37-point loss between those last two.

So yes, there is momentum between games, as opposed to the NHL. It's just good not to assume it as indisputable fact.

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