Game 7: Warriors 120, Kings 100

Location: Evergreen Ave.
Personnel: Me, KT, GD, GG, Olive the cat
T-shirt: Golden State of Mind

This time we had our Champagne at the beginning of the game, in the form of mimosas. Mine was mostly juice, though, because I needed to be laser-focused for Game 7.

This despite the fact that after a wonderful Saturday I felt like I had achieved the sense of detachment that would allow me to accept any result. Asking for a fifth title in nine seasons is a bit greedy, after all; maybe the joy should go to some underprivileged town like, say, poor Sacramento — where the fans bring cowbells to the games because Phil Jackson once called it a “cowtown,” which it is, figuratively if not literally.

But I don’t decide these things. Steph does.

I said in the Game 5 post that I had run out of superlatives for him, and they haven’t invented any new ones in the meantime. I guess “Steph” is a superlative of its own at this point. Several times a game I just shake my head and say “Steph,” and everyone knows what I mean.

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Game 6: Kings 118, Warriors 99

Location: Westhaven
Personnel: Me, KT, GD, GG
T-shirt: Headband Klay

Unsurprisingly, I enjoy writing about the victories more than the defeats. Winning is more fun than losing. Everybody loves Champagne and confetti.

But losing teaches you things about yourself. Do you lose your composure and start pointing fingers and citing conspiracies? Or do you accept what’s happened and your role in it, and try to do better next time?

I am willing to take the blame for this one because I wore a t-shirt that had previously been worn for a loss — in part to try to disabuse myself of the idea that my shirt choices affect the outcome of the games. But I guess they do. In my defense, Headband Klay had an excellent track record before this year — 4–0 in last year’s Finals — but apparently has lost his mojo.

I am also guilty of putting into type the idea that we were going to win, although I think I qualified it pretty well. But I did use the word [redacted], which may have been enough to anger the basketball gods.

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Game 5: Warriors 123, Kings 116

Location: Evergreen Ave.
Personnel: Me, KT, miscellaneous domestic felines
T-shirt: Local Heroes

It’s been a wild, topsy-turvy year in the NBA playoffs. Last night the #8 seed in the East, the Miami Heat — who only snuck into the playoffs via the back door of the play-in tournament — eliminated the #1 Milwaukee Bucks. Meanwhile the Lakers, who also qualified through the play-in, are on the brink of bouncing the cocky young Memphis Grizzlies in a series that has put many of us longtime Laker-haters in the uncomfortable position of sort of rooting for them. And perhaps most surprising of all, the New York Knicks won a playoff series. The Knicks!

For a minute there it seemed like the Stark Fist of Removal was coming for the Warriors too. When they lost the first two games of their series, and then Draymond Green got suspended for Game 3, there was much doomsaying in the Nation: It wasn’t just the season coming to an end, it was the world. The group chat became a deathwatch.

Is it OK if I give myself a pat on the back here? It was at this point that I texted my friends:

In the end this will just be a dramatic moment in our 2023 championship video.

Which is a long way off, I know. We’re still in the first round and there are still games to be played. Last night I was reminded of the sad tale of Tracy McGrady, whose Orlando Magic went up 3–1 on the Detroit Pistons in the first round in 2003. Feeling euphoric, T-Mac told the press, ““It feels good to be in the second round.”

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Divine Symmetry Revisited (conclusion)

When last we left David Bowie, he had played six straight future classics from Hunky Dory to an audience that must have been fairly flabbergasted. Next up is a song that, to the best of my knowledge, he never made an official studio recording of: “Looking for a Friend” was played live and in radio sessions, but the only extant studio version is credited to Arnold Corns and sung by David’s short-lived protege Freddi Buretti.

I think Bowie suspected that “Looking for a Friend,” while not charmless, is a lesser composition that’s not really worth the effort. The idea, I guess, was to write a song that’s outwardly a laddish rocker and secretly a gay cruising song. The rousing chorus is designed to get you singing along before you know what you’re singing along to. But something about it never clicks; it’s simultaneously too clever and not clever enough. “Looking for a Friend” would soon be cut from the setlist and forgotten until people started poking around for Bowie rarities many years later. Some rarities are rare for a reason.

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Game 4: Warriors 126, Kings 125

Location: Brodnitz Residence, Alameda
Personnel: Me, Dan, Bob
T-shirt: Is Potato

This was one of those games that simultaneously reminds you why you watch sports and and makes you question why you continue to do so. It was entirely too stressful for something that technically comes under the heading of “leisure activity.” After 47 minutes and 59 seconds of high-octane basketball, nothing was decided until Harrison Barnes’ three-point attempt caromed off the side of the rim and the hearts of all the world’s Warriors fans resumed beating.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed myself. There was food, there were friends, and the outcome was the desired one. But I’m ready now for a couple days off. Game 5 will be Wednesday, and unfortunately will take place in Sacramento, where things did not go so well last week. My project between now and then is to convince myself that my team has Seen the Light and can win one on the road, which they will have to do at some point if they want to win the series. Given 80 hours to work with, I think I can do it.

Game 3: Warriors 114, Kings 97

Location: Wilson Residence, Oakland
Personnel: Me, Temescal Players Association
T-shirt: Warriors Hiero

Last night sanity was restored to the universe, and I am not inclined to question or analyze. Instead, please just enjoy this:

Game 2: Kings 114, Warriors 106

Location: Evergreen Ave.
Personnel: Me, KT, Sid the cat, Olive the cat
T-shirt: When It Rains, It Pours

Since Steve Kerr took over as coach in 2014, the Warriors have never been down 2–0 in a playoff series. Until now.

In a way this is not surprising. The W’s were 11–30 in road games this season, versus 33–8 at home. So there is every reason to believe they can win the next two games at Chase Center to get back in the series. But still, it’s a painful and unfamiliar position to be in, and there will be three days of excruciating hot takes to endure before Game 3 tips off on Thursday.

The number that stands out from last night is 20, which is the number of turnovers my team committed. To be honest it felt like 50 — the ball was flying all over the place, and not in a good way. You just can’t play sloppy like that in games that matter. Can I get an amen?

Also the Kings’ defense was playing really well, or at least I think it was. Things got a bit frantic for a while there. There may have been some yelling at the TV.

It got so frustrating for Draymond Green that when Domantas Sabonis got a little handsy in one 4th-quarter sequence, Draymond went full Christian Laettner on him:

It is not out of the question that Draymond will be suspended for the next game, which would be, how you say, Bad. We’ll see what the league says today. Or maybe you will: I very much want to run off into the woods, or whatever, and stay away from all forms of media until about 7 PM on Thursday.

Game 1: Kings 126, Warriors 123

Location: Evergreen Ave.
Personnel: Me, KT, GD
T-shirt: Headband Klay

Everything about this game went perfectly except the result. Good company, good food, good wine, good basketball: check. The score was nip-and-tuck all the way, but when the Warriors went up 10 in the 3rd quarter, one might have been forgiven for assuming they were going to close the deal. Alas, the Kings rallied in the 4th and the game ended up hinging on an Andrew Wiggins 3-point attempt in the last minute. It was a little long and that was that.

It’s hard to be too mad. The Kings played really well, especially quicksilver guard DeAaron Fox (who scored 38 and, annoyingly, found his 3-point stroke in the 2nd half) and reserve Malik Monk (who earned 14 free throws and made them all en route to 32 surprising points). The fans at the Golden One Center were very excited for their first home playoff game in 17 years, and I bet Sacramento was a pretty fun place to be for once.

But that’s enough. I expect the Warriors to make the necessary adjustments, take game 2 tomorrow, and send the local children home in tears. This is no time for cheap sentiment; there’s a dynasty to defend.

Twilight of Champions

My Golden State Warriors begin the playoffs today at 5:30 against the Sacramento Kings. In case you haven’t been paying attention, that’s not a typo, and I’m not on drugs — at least I don’t think so. The Kings made the playoffs this season for the first time in 16 years, a longer drought than even the Warriors at their shittiest. Their 48 wins entitled them to the 3 seed in the Western Conference and home-court advantage over the 6-seed W’s, who sleepwalked to an unprepossessing 44–38 record.

Only one 6 seed has won the NBA title: the 1994–95 Houston Rockets, defending champs who struggled through a mediocre regular season but simply Refused to Lose when it came to the games that mattered. Could that happen again? Sure, why not? I’m not betting against it, and neither should you. It never pays to underestimate the heart of a champion.

I’ll probably go back to writing regularly about the playoff this year, though I know that some of you are definitively disinterested. This is because Stephen Curry just turned 35 and his running mates Klay and Draymond are both 33 now. The good times aren’t going to last forever.

Which reminds me, today is also the 18th birthday (observed) of my cat Johnny, who’s been a semi-regular character in this blog since the beginning. A beast of magnificent proportions in his prime, he’s now slowing down and thinning out — but that has been going on for a while, and may go on for a good while more. Here is a cat who has seen a lot of playoff basketball in his day:

Today he got a bath and a blow-dry. (He tolerates the former, rather likes the latter.) Tonight he will get some roast chicken. (It’s not being cooked only for him, but I’m not going to tell him that). If you can think of any other ways to indulge an elderly feline, I’m all ears.

Divine Symmetry Revisited (continued)

As a band we had just finished making Hunky Dory and Friars was the first gig we did with him and we were all pretty nervous doing a show where all these new songs were being performed for the very first time to an audience. So we were all putting an effort in for that show and of course it went down a storm.
—Trevor Bolder

The Aylesbury Friars Club gig sticks in my mind as one of Bowie and the Spiders favourite gigs. I remember the first time we played we’d spent weeks working out the show and it was the first airing of a Bowie and Spiders concert that we then took around the world! The audience reception was the best.
—Woody Woodmansey

[Note: If you’d like something to look at while listening to the songs posted here, you could do worse than this series of photos from the Hunky Dory cover session.]

Having warmed up the audience and themselves, David and the band — who were not yet calling themselves the Spiders from Mars — launched into six straight Hunky Dory songs, beginning with “Oh! You Pretty Things.” It’s a rather ragged version, with a couple of real clunkers on the piano; by far my favorite part is the Eric Idle imitation in the intro.

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