Everything about this game, a 120-111 victory for Golden State, screamed proud outmatched champion on it’s last legs. After a second half basket, Steph Curry, who finished with 31 points, got emotional and yelled “we ain’t going home yet” to the crowd. Fair, because he and the Warriors did just enough to push back elimination, but the amount of willpower one home win cost suggests this team is still in a lot of trouble.
The other team’s two best players shot a combined 23-59 in a home game in front of a wild crowd cheering for a team that won 73 regular season games and the contest was still close for most of the game.
For the Warriors, that has to be a concern. Curry’s body allowed him the benefit of health and adrenaline during crunch time and the Oklahoma City Thunder still almost made a game of it.
All the rally cries and “we still the champs!” pregame speeches in front of delirious and screeching fans, and all the Warriors could conjure was a dodgy win.
In the 2008 NBA Finals, the Lakers were the prohibitive favorites entering the series. After a devastating game four loss to the Celtics, in which they blew a 24 point first half lead, they found themselves down, 3-1. With one last home game, Kobe Bryant and Co. worked up the energy to win one more game, to bring the series to a game six in Boston.
With an innate home court advantage and a deadeye sense of urgency, Boston throttled the Lakers in game six. It was over by halftime, and it was an eventual 39 point clincher for the Celtics.
With the game five win, Kobe Bryant, a proud champion, was essentially saying “F*** You, you aren’t winning this on my home court.”
Tomorrow night, when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook run wild, and when every fan goes insane after every Thunder basket, the score will get out of hand.
Steve Kerr will call timeouts. Curry will try his damnedest to keep up with the blurry Westbrook. Thompson will make a few crowd quieting shots. But it won’t matter. Because this season, at least in retrospect, the Thunder will have been too much for the overconfident and previously untested Warriors.
The way great teams and dynasties happen isn’t overnight. They aren’t supposed to be manufactured the way Golden State was last season. They are molded through disappointment.
Isaiah Thomas’ Pistons had to wait. Michael Jordan’s Bulls had to wait. Kobe and Shaq’s Lakers had to wait. LeBron James had to wait. Durant and Westbrook waited long enough, and now it is there turn.
Golden State broke the mold last season. Call it luck or skill; it doesn’t matter. But now they have reverted back to the waiting pool.
Their last stand was last night. They didn’t let the Thunder win it in Oakland.
Now it’s time for the Thunder to close this thing out.
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