Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The End Of Basketball As We Know It

Chuckle Time Every Time
Tonight in Cleveland, the defending champion Warriors faced one of their biggest challenges of the year. Coming off an unseemly and shocking beatdown at the hands of the Pistons, they were facing LeBron James and the Cavs on their home floor, in front of a raucous crowd, for their only visit to Cleveland this year. It was a nationally televised game, and when PG Stephen Curry made odd trash talk noises about loving to play here because it reminded him of the championship, we all knew what was coming next.

Thug ball. Vengeance for the fans of the Land of Cleve. The Cavs getting as deep and dirty as possible, following up on what worked in the Christmas Day loss in Golden State. Matthew Dellevadova, fresh off his coronation by the LA Times as the dirtiest player in the Association, doing very dellie things. James and Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving showing that when they are healthy, the Cavs aren't just the class of the East, but a real threat to the Dubs defending their crown.

Final score: Dubs 132, Cavs 98.

Even worse? It wasn't that close.

Curry had 35-5-4 without playing in the fourth quarter. The Dubs were up 26 at the freaking *half*. Love went 1-5 in 21 minutes, while James was a relatively innocuous 16-5-5 in 33, and a team-worst -35 in plus/minus. The second-leading Cavs scorer was JR Smith with 14, and he got tossed in the third quarter for a flagrant foul.

The Dubs shot 19 for 40 (!) from the arc, with Andre Iguodala doing his routine LeBron's Kryptonite treatment by outscoring the world's best player, again. Draymond Green nearly triple doubled, again. Every available Dub played, and not just a courtesy minute. The game was tied twice, at 0-0 and 2-2. There were no lead changes. Just utter and complete domination, because when the Dubs are making their threes, no team in the Association can even stay in the picture.

The win keeps the Dubs ahead of the pace for most wins in a season, and while NBA cognoscenti have been playing the "Hold On, The Spurs Are Terrifying Too", the plain and simple is that San Antonio has a worse record (though 38-4 vs 36-6 isn't exactly chopped liver) with an easier schedule. Short of injuries or a sudden outbreak of selfishness, neither of which seems in the least bit likely, the best regular season mark in NBA history is totally within the Dubs' wheelhouse, especially if they can get through the current long road trip, which includes stops in Chicago, Oklahoma City (piddling along at 30-12) and the Spurs.

This is where people who don't really understand the NBA regular season talk about how none of this really matters, and that the Dubs are driving too hard for meaningless goals. This misses on any number of levels. First and most obvious, the Dubs actually spread the minutes hard, mostly because their bench usually adds to the lead. No one on this team is racking up anything close to difficult minutes. Second, the reason why the NBA playoffs don't have a ton of upsets is because the regular season is highly predictive, and all of those games are important in terms of unit development.

Or, at least, they're important for teams that aren't the Warriors. (And remember, champions are supposed to come back to the pack the next year. Injuries, free agent defections, age, guys looking for stats over rings. Um, maybe not so much. And just how terrible of a coach was Mark Jackson to hold these guys down for so long?)

See, the vast majority of the NBA are teams that, with the exception of a few great and terrible teams, have wins and losses decided by, at most, a half-dozen possessions of game. You are dealing with some of the world's best athletes, with significant scouting and coaching, and just about everyone who doesn't play for the Lakers cares.

And then... there's the Warriors, who win games by double digits, and have the game's leading scorer in Curry at 29.9 per game. And that dude doesn't play the fourth quarter. (San Antonio is even worse right now, at 14.3 vs the Dubs' 11.2.)

Which leads to the following two questions for me.

1) How much will the Dubs beat the 72-10 mark by,

2) Will the Spurs get it as well, and

3) Can we please, for heaven's sake, move one of the teams to the lEast so that the True Finals happen in, well, the Finals?


Snd_dsgnr said...

As a more or less lifelong member of the "NBA regular season doesn't matter" brigade, I might actually be more excited to see next week's Warriors-Spurs game than the Super Bowl. I'm definitely more excited to see it than to see the next UNC Duke game, which is so bizarre for me to write that I think I should go check my temperature.

If we don't get a Warriors-Spurs WCF this time around I'm going to be pissed.

DMtShooter said...

OKC might have something to say about GS-SAN, but agreed. Besides, there really isn't a team that I want to see win a Super Bowl left in the tournament, but that's tomorrow's column...

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