Two weeks ago, this down-3-1-thing was a really cool idea. Being the live underdog is always a good thing, you know, and every once in a while the lottery gets struck.
But now, only two weeks later, the shoe is in the other nether region, and the Golden State Warriors are facing Game 7 of the NBA Finals after assuring the nation and the world it would not be required after Game 4.
Plus, it’s a hell of time for the Warriors to look so little like the Warriors, from shooting to defense to basic composure under pressure or disappointment at not being treated like the royalty they clearly believe themselves to be.
Not to mention the wives and families. But more on that in a few paragraphs.
In getting curb-stomped for the second time in four days, this time 115-101, by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 of these finals, the Warriors are suddenly vulnerable, frustrated, underprepared, and in general a hazmat-level mess. They have been flat owned by the Cavs in three of the last four games (and are an almost subterranean 7-6 in the last two series), and the idea that going home solely will cure all their visible ills seems utterly daft.
In other words, after two weeks of having genuinely competitive adversity thrust upon them in the Oklahoma City series, they have now forced it upon themselves. And we say this with all due respect to Ayesha Curry, who was already fuming from the family bus being held outside Quicken Loans Arena and spoke up in incendiary fashion after her husband fouled out, threw his mouthpiece and got T’d up and ejected (with a one-technical tossing) by official Jason Phillips for wishing a plague of hideous skin diseases upon him.
“I’ve lost all respect sorry this is absolutely rigged for money . . . Or ratings in not sure which. I won't be silent . Just saw it live sry.”
She later deleted the tweet, but the rampant conspiracy assertion lives on, except that (a) we know it doesn’t work that way unless we really want it to be so, and (b) that’s all part of the pre-Game 7 sideshow now. Everything that really matters happens Sunday, starting with whether the Warriors can be re-resuscitated after having their invincibility, and their mannered cool, shredded so comprehensively.
We should stop here and point out that the Cavaliers deserved the comfort of their wins. They jumped the Warriors early, and only let them inside single-digits twice all game before beating them into what ended as angry yet abject surrender. LeBron James had since second consecutive 41-point game, adding eight rebounds and 11 assists, Kyrie Irving kicked in 23 of his own, and Tristan Thompson, running unopposed, added 15 with 16 rebounds as part of this thorough gutting of the Warrior mystique. Their work made the rest of the Cavs all but moot, and the vaunted Warrior depth has evaporated under their combined heat.
They have earned these lopsided wins in a series with nothing but them. No finals had ever produced six consecutive double-digit margins until now, and in case you still believe that momentum exists between games after all the evidence presented you . . .
. . . well, Oklahoma City.
That’s a thin reed upon which to clutch, though. The Warriors have been outplayed as demonstrably in Games 5 and 6 as they were in Games 3 and 4 of the conference final, and even going home to Oakland fixes less than needs be fixed . . . if it can be fixed at all.
Starting with their ability to take punches with equanimity before throwing even more. The Warriors, who have made their name as being cool under all circumstances, flipped their wigs again as their frustration over another wretched shooting and defending night.
This time, it was Curry, who snapped after fouling as much as he ever has, though Green also came close to hitting the third rail before being skillfully calmed down from another love letter from the league’s dean of students Kiki Vandeweghe through the careful on-court diplomacy of crew chief Scott Foster.
And head coach Steve Kerr decided he was not going to sit idly by when a full-throated defense of the franchise’s meal ticket (and what we can only assume will be the subsequent fine) would do.
“He had every right to be upset,” Kerr said, first noting that Curry’s mega-snit was separate from the outcome, which was clearly merited. “He’s the MVP of the league. He gets six fouls called on him, three of them were absolutely ridiculous . . . LeBron flops on the last one, and Jason Phillips falls for that for a flop.
“Yeah, I'm happy he threw his mouthpiece. He should be upset. Look, it's the Finals and everybody's competing out there. There are fouls on every play. It's a physical game. I just think that Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, the way we run our offense, we're running, we're cutting through the lane, we're a rhythm offense. If they're going to let Cleveland grab and hold these guys constantly on their cuts and then you're going to call these ticky-tack fouls on the MVP of the league to foul him out, I don't agree with that.”
In sum, the Warriors go home now, and neither their collective resume nor a friendly crowd nor an easier route for the family bus nor a more zen-like approach to the officiating can replace the fact that they have to relocate their essential them-itude.
Their shooting, their defense, their rebounding, their time, their pace, their depth and their essential comfort level, all of which have betrayed them in the past two games, are all that can save them from a genuinely bilious summer that not only will wipe out the joys of the past eight months but almost surely will rival that of the infamous Summer Of The Shark of 2014 for bitterness, recrimination and emotional agony that never truly goes away.
Other than that, re: Kerr, “You get one home game to win the NBA title, that's not a bad deal.”
No, but it could be a hell of a lot better than getting it this way.