The Golden State Warriors had had such an amazing regular season and spellbound so many that it’s hard to believe they found themselves down so badly in the Western Conference finals.
In the last few years alone, they have risen from the ashes of the NBA’s graveyard to win 67 regular-season games and the NBA title last year, which was the team’s first title in 40 years. Then this year they won a surreal 73 games, with these playoffs just seeming like an unnecessary process to basically crown history’s greatest team with a championship. But hey, not so fast…
In the Western Conference finals, the Warriors have seemed to surprise everyone with their lack lustre play against the Thunder.
It’s hard to believe how efficiently the Warriors flipped the old-world game with their new-world style. And in the last 23 months, for fans watching this team has been a blast. Any hardcore basketball fan in any major city would love to have a team like theirs, watching stars like Steph Curry explode in three-pointers in every game.
Yet no matter how gifted Curry, Klay Thompson and their fabulous shooting teammates are, it doesn’t make facing the doomsday situation that awaits them in Oklahoma City on Saturday any easier. And now they and their fans knnow that the basketball verities they thought were eternal are actually flawed. It doesn’t matter how close you are to the rim, it doesn’t make the shot easier or thel ayups are slump-proof.
And then there is star power, the Warriors are only unbeaten in these playoffs when Curry scores at least 30 points. But in Game 5 it was his hard working teammates who won that game for him. Andrew Bogut was dancing around the rim; Draymond Green hit the rim with his junk buckets. Even Marreese Speights added in 14 points.
And that’s why the Warriors won Game 5. It’s also how they might lose this series. It’s hard to choose and change your identity, let alone alter team ethic almost 95 percent of the way through the season. Many are realizing that their fatal flaw is that Game 5 was an aberration and that they won’tbe able to ride Curry to the finals.
The Warriors are 9-0 this when scoring at least 110 points. But they are 1-5 when they don’t. These playoffs have slowed the game down a little and that slow ball is putting a kink in Golden State’s game.
Because it’s not possible to go all the way shooting 25-feet from the rim, and then never expect to lose a series. Their best player weighs 180 pounds so he can’t take the beating of playing 100 games a year without getting injured. It’s possible the magic has run out.
Russell Westbrook is why the Thunder have stormed through Golden State. He has played like the league MVP for most of this series,. And the reason which makes him so singularly special, is that he goes back to correct bad dribbling and saves chances that otherwise would be simply bad shots and turnovers. Westbrook can score all his points in the paint too if needs be, and that’s why he is the perfect symbol of why the Thunder are an old-school nightmare for the futeresque Warriors.
It might even be karma for Curry for who got handed the NBA MVP by the only unanimous vote in league history. Many thought the idea of that vote was questionable, and deeply disrespectful to one of the most iconic players of the sport — Mr. LeBron James.
Yes the Warriors did stretch their lead in Game 5 but they did that with their second-team, while Curry was nervously watching from the bench. Despite having an incredible shooting ability, he still doesn’t have the various tools James has become celebrated for over the last 13 years.
That doesn’t mean the Golden State Warriors are just a one act play. They are NBA champions. And Curry is definitely more than a one trick pony. But has become obvious in this series and with what will happen in Game 6, it’s dangerous to crown players and teams before they earn their place on the stage. They have to win before they are considered winners, let alone unbeateable.
Of course, the Warriors could win their next two games and then go on to sweep the NBA Finals. But it seemed like Curry and crew only looked like a 48-minute speed bump for Oklahoma City, which next time they will roll over. Saturday night will be the Thunder’s chance to restore the NBA’s old-world sensibility to a new-world game. But if they don’t Curry will still have to meet James in the final, and that could be another karmic lesson in itself.
Our Pick: Thunder over Warriors, 105-98