And for their next trick, the Golden State Warriors will open the NBA Finals by refusing to take the floor at for the first half of Game 1.
You know, just to see how far they can push this third-quarter thing when everyone is watching.
The Warriors completed their turn as an underdog by beating the Houston Rockets, 101-92, in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, and doing so in the most atypical and typical of ways – by helping the Rockets achieve their best selves without Chris Paul, and then punishing them for daring to dream by utterly crushing their spirits in the second half.
I mean, it doesn’t get more antisocially entertaining than that.
Indeed, the Warriors are attempting to become the first team in the sport’s history to overcome their own conference, the best team in the other conference, and their own nagging boredom all at once. Indeed, they did a 48-minute stage show of their entire season Monday night, just to drive home the point that not even their own stultifying ennui can beat them four times in seven games.
Game 7 can be explained with one Steve Kerr quote, during the TNT First Quarter Confessional – “We played the worst quarter we’ve ever played as a team, and we’re just down five points. We’ll be all right.” And he was indeed correct, as much as his players tested his capacity for patience for the first 27 minutes.
Nobody thought much about the Warriors winning when James Harden converted an 11-foot floater three minutes into the third quarter to put Houston up, 58-47. But the beginning of the end had happened nine minutes earlier when Harden missed an open 28-footer in the middle of the second quarter.
It was the first of 27 consecutive missed three-pointers by the Rockets, a stunning achievement that even teams that tank for a living couldn’t manage, a miss that sparked a 24-minute stream of failure that the Warriors eventually decided to make them pay for, full retail, no refunds, no exchanges.
Oh sure, it looked like the Warriors had simply done their usual three-quarter magic show, and they had. They outscored the Rockets 33-15, to turn an 11-point halftime deficit into a seven-point lead, and Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant quelled the darkest thoughts of restless Warrior fans by scoring 24 of the team’s 33 points in the quarter.
But 27 straight misses by the team perfected volume three-point shooting transcends not having Chris Paul. The Point God might have saved them, even on one leg, flamingo-style, but sometimes forces of nature will simply have their own.
And it wasn’t even as if the Warriors played smothering defense to cause those misses. The Rockets just missed, again and again, with good looks and bad ones, contested and abandoned, losing in a way that may make all their other galling postseason failures fade in comparison.
But the best teams, the ones that don’t let their boredom turn to despair, take what is given them, and eat with both hands until the opponent can give no more. The Warriors have won a series in the most infuriating of ways, at least for those who still expect them to routinely perform at their highest level.
They don’t. Well, they haven’t. This story might have ended differently had Paul stayed healthy (though, conversely, it might have been the same had Andre Iguodala stayed healthy), and this story might have ended differently if the Rockets hadn’t outdone the Warriors’ terrible first half with a second half that was even more record-breakingly ghastly.
But now it’s the same old story once again – Cleveland and LeBron James in the Finals, if we don’t have the order reversed. James has been more Jamesian than ever this spring, and now must be more Jamesian still against Golden State.
And even at that, he has to hope he can shoot better than Houston did (the Rockets shot 28.8 percent, missing a staggering 190 threes in the series), and that his teammates make more than cameos in the series.
And ultimately, that the Warriors test fate a few more times, and for a change get punished for it. It hasn’t happened yet, but surely the day must be coming. Maybe by the time they move to San Francisco.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for NBCSportsBayArea.com.