NBA Finals, Game 3: Warriors 110, Cavaliers 102

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On the 4th of July two years ago, when Kevin Durant announced his intention to sign with the Warriors, we knew there would be nights like this. Nights when the Splash Brothers were struggling (3-for-15 combined on threes) and the Warriors were having a hard time putting points on the board.

Two years ago, the Dubs would have lost this game. But last night KD calmly went about his business, scoring 43 points to go with 13 rebounds and 7 assists. Again and again throughout the night he jabbed daggers in, and then with 49 seconds left, he finally hit the heart:

(more…)

NBA Finals, Game 2: Warriors 122, Cavaliers 103

This game unfolded strangely for me and mine, as we had tickets for the Ween show at the Arvest Bank Theatre in Kansas City that was starting just a few minutes after tipoff. The plan was to DVR the game and maintain a news blackout until we could watch it in the A.M., and things were going swimmingly until about an hour into the show. This was when Dean Ween — somewhat randomly, if you ask me, since Ween is from New Jersey — asked the crowd, “Does anybody know the Cavs score?”

I managed to clamp my hands to my ears fast enough to avoid spoilers, but not so lucky was my wife, who around the same time received an unexpected text message from her mother revealing the result. From her subsequent demeanor I gathered there wasn’t much to worry about — but it was still fun to watch Steph Curry slowly tunnel into the Cavaliers’ chest cavity and ever-so-gently pull their hearts out.1

Of special note is the shot that occurs about 1:15 into this video, where Steph is moving away from the basket as the shot clock expires, then suddenly turns and tosses up an apparent prayer that swishes through. What’s truly amazing about it is that if you look close, you can see that it is no accident; he knows exactly what is about to transpire. He gathers himself, pivots on one leg, raises up, and launches a rainbow that doesn’t even ruffle the net.

I long ago ran out of superlatives for this kind of thing, but I never get tired of watching it. I am, on the other hand, just plain tired; I don’t handle this rock’n’roll lifestyle as well as I used to. That’s all for today. Game 3 is Wednesday.

NBA Finals, Game 1: Warriors 124, Cavaliers 114

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts to a call during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cavaliers in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, May 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) ORG XMIT: OAS154

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You can never have too many pictures of LeBron James suffering.

You can never have too many pictures of LeBron James suffering.

Thanks to careful planning, I was so well fortified with vodka martinis and white wine last night that I did not suffer unduly when the Warriors almost blew this game. In a just universe, the Cavs probably would have won; they fought and clawed and hung tight for 48 minutes, and were only undone in the end by the technically-correct-but-wow reversal of a foul call and a monumentally boneheaded play by the ever-surprising J.R. Smith.

Fortunately, we live in the real world, where 51 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists from The Minotaur Currently Known as LeBron James are not necessarily enough to earn a victory. A world where a charge call on Kevin Durant with 36 seconds left in the game is reviewed to determine whether LeBron was in the restricted area and ends up being changed to a block, resulting in Durant free throws that tie the game. A world where George Hill has a chance to secure the win by making two free throws, but misses the second, and the rebound is corralled by Smith, who then inexplicably dribbles away from the basket as the clock runs out, sending the game into overtime.2

J.R. Smith has always been, to put it politely, mercurial. Or to put it not politely, a nutjob. His shenanigans over the years have been many; in this case it appears that he literally didn’t know the score, thinking his team was ahead and that running out the clock would ensure victory. On the court afterwards, he appeared to say “I thought we were up”; in a postgame interview he denied this. As The Ringer recounts it,

When the doors to the Cavs locker room finally opened, more reporters than I could count crammed inside the cramped space and surrounded Smith. But while [Tyronn] Lue, [Steve] Kerr, and everyone who watched the game believed that Smith thought the Cavs were ahead, J.R. said he knew the game was tied. He told us that he dribbled out because Kevin Durant was in his way and he wanted “to get space to bring it out and maybe get a shot off.” Then — and this was the truly ridiculous part on a night full of ridiculous moments — he kinda threw LeBron under the bus.

Western Conference Finals, Game 7: Warriors 101, Rockets 92

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At some point during the first half last night — another oddly somnambulant performance by the Warriors in a literal must-win — every Dubs fan was girding for the nightmare scenario where our team lost. I mean, not even making it to the Finals — can you imagine?

Yes, we are spoiled. But then again who, outside of the 7th and 19th biggest markets in the USA, wanted to see a series between two one-man teams led unlikable superstars? (By which I mean LeBron James — of whom more later — and James Harden, who with Chris Paul sidelined is back to being the Houston Rockets’ sole marquee player.) And yet that seemed a strong possibility as the Warriors committed four fouls in the first three minutes of the game — including three by Klay Thompson — and went down by as much as 15 before limping into halftime trailing by a relatively modest 11.

We were watching at our friends Gary and Genia’s house in Trinidad, where it was a spectacularly beautiful day. We spent the halftime break staring out at Moonstone Beach, trying to convince ourselves that everything was going to be fine. And there was every reason to think it would be — the W’s had been in exactly this situation two days previously, and outscored the Rockets 64–25 in a magical second half.

But that’s the thing about magic: It’s unpredictable. You can’t just summon it at will.

Or can you? (more…)

Western Conference Finals, Game 6: Warriors 115, Rockets 86

Klay was fired up.

Klay was fired up.

And so was Steph. And so was I.

And so was Steph. And so was I.

Last night was possibly the hardest I’ve ever worked as a basketball fan. I spent most of the game standing about two feet from the screen, often in a defensive crouch if the Rockets had the ball. This was good for my calves but maybe not for my heart, which has suffered a lot of sports-related stress over the last week.

Despite all my efforts the first quarter went horribly wrong, with the Warriors misfiring left and right, committing turnover after turnover, while everything the Rockets threw up seemed to find the bottom of the net. After one quarter Houston led 39–22 and all over the Dub Nation the faithful were contemplating methods of self-harm.

The W’s found their footing a little in the 2nd and managed to go to halftime down only 10. This was considerably better than the worst-case scenario that had seemed about to unfold, but hardly reassuring. I spent the whole halftime break pacing back and forth between the living room and the office, firing off alternately despairing and hopeful text messages to my fellow fans.

Then the second half started, and all of a sudden it was like someone had taken the kryptonite away. The Warriors scored 11 straight points — including two Klay Thompson threes, one by Steph Curry, and a nasty Kevin Durant dunk — and never looked back. They led by 7 at the end of the quarter, and never once in the 4th did Houston look capable of getting back in the game. (more…)

A few more thoughts on Game 5

The other day I was too stunned and hung over to form any coherent thoughts about the disaster that was Game 5. And I kind of still don’t want to talk about it. The Warriors played poorly and deserved to lose…what else is there to say?

But even in the midst of defeat they caught a huge break when Chris Paul strained his hamstring in the last minute of the game. He will sit out tonight’s game in Oakland, and while I would have preferred that the W’s beat the Rockets at full strength, at the moment any help is welcome. Andre Iguodala will miss his third game in a row, and apparently he is a keyer cog in the machine than we knew, because the Dubs have not looked like the same team without him.

But, blah blah blah…honestly I’m tired of hearing about it and thinking about it. Let’s play the damn game already and see what happens. 15 minutes to go.