Thursday, April 14, 2016

The NBA Has The Best Last Night Ever

Exit Stage Scowl
Just under a minute into the third quarter tonight in Oakland, Stephen Curry found himself outside of the three point arc with enough time and space to shoot. So he did, connecting on his 400th three point shot of the season, and the Oracle crowd went wild in the way they always do. With the crowd wanting to to just acknowledge the achievement -- this isn't just a record, but it's an astounding record, and beats his own astounding record -- the game went on.

With his team up 20, Curry drove and scored on a ridiculously controlled teardrop finger roll, took a charge because that's how he plays basketball, then added another three, this time from an absurd length. Just another game, only for the all-time single season record in wins.

The Warriors really weren't at their best in this game, following their season-long pattern of losing focus when the opponent is clearly outclassed. They let Vince Carter and Zach Randolph get loose, no one other than Steph and the routinely sterling Sean Livingston really impressed while the game was still in doubt, and they went too far into the realm of what head coach Steve Kerr calls Making It A Show. And yet they still won their 73rd game of the year, still scored 125 in a thoroughly fun 21-point win, and more or less punched the clock while Kobe Bryant was scoring 60 in his own coda for the ages game, most of it late, against the eternal punching bag Jazz. And the 60 was needed, too, given how Utah held a lead in the fourth.

People like to talk about how the NBA regular season doesn't mean anything, but it really does. High seeds normally truck low seeds. Home court matters. No team that misses the playoffs is ever really missed, and no playoff ever ends with people thinking that the best team didn't win. Bryant's final for the ages might be the last game that Laker Fan enjoys for years to come, but none of that really matters.

The game is all that matters. When it's good, it's just the best. You watch the world's best athletes, from every continent, playing a game that has no elements of blood sport, no padding to shield you from their emotions and their essence, and more than occasional moments of jaw-dropping wonder. And even a team as bad as this year's Laker team is capable of delivering excellence on any given night. Hell, my 10-win Sixers, one of the very worst NBA teams ever, put up 61 in the first half tonight in Chicago, and looked like a team. It didn't last, of course, but to see minutes of useful ball from even the worst is one hell of a bargain.

Oh, and one final thing. The playoffs are, actually, always better. Not more necessary, and sometimes maddeningly weak in comparison with the black tar heroin that we're going to get out of the West, but yeah, better.

I know that many of you just tolerate hoop until football comes around, or would rather I talk more about baseball, because your teams are fun. But mine are not, and football needs to go away for months at a time to make me miss it, and forget the devastation it brings. This, right now, is the season that matters. And just keeps getting somehow better.

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