And for the first half, a sluggish game is exactly what we got, as both teams could not put it in the ocean, mostly because both teams play some of the world's best defense to go with their offense. No one on the Dub bench could find the bucket, MVP Stephen Curry continued his career-long pattern of not being able to figure out the Alamo rims, and the refs let the game go straight to Thug Ball. 35-all at the break.
In the third, Golden State started with a hangover, with turnovers to start the half and a quick 8-0 run by the home team. But after some tongue-lashing from coach Steve Kerr, the defense picked up, and Curry had one of those back to back 3-point make trips that are right up there with steam coming from under your car's hood to warn you that Bad Times Are Coming. Pharmaceutical grade hoop ensued, and special credit goes to the Dub bench, who kept Curry on the pine for the first half of the fourth. In crunch time, the Dubs just looked fresher, and while no game with this amount of history on the line can ever be called easy, they've had harder. 92-86, Warriors, Win Number 72 for the year, Road Win Number 34. The first is tied for an all-time mark, and the second is an all-time mark. If they can get past the Grizz at home on Wednesday in a game that will likely seem more like coronation than contest, all of the History they can get in the regular season is theirs.
Make no mistake about it... while Curry had 37 and was amazing, this is a team. Harrison Barnes had fourth quarter makes that gave them air. Mo Speights is just useful as hell. Sean Livingston just owns his matchups every night. Even the deep benchies get time and give good minutes. People talk about how much they want seven games from a Spurs-Dubs series, but that involves the Spurs winning three of seven games. I'm just not seeing that.
It seems odd to call a game like this one special. It didn't get to memorable final minute theatrics, or have fantastic offense, and much of the first half was just sluggy. But that's how well the Spurs played, at least on defense. LaMarcus Aldridge was masterful, and carried them for most of the game. Kawhi Leonard might be the Defensive Player of the Year, and he'd be a borderline All-Star just on his offense. Other than having some undersized guards that can be exploited in half court sets against teams that can play five legitimate offensive threats -- which is, to say, a weakness that can only reasonably be exploited by a handful of playable combinations in the Association -- I do not see a weakness on this team. They held the Dubs to 92 points, and only 19 assists for the game. That's about as good as you can hope, really, and maybe things are different with Boris Diaw and Tim Duncan being able to make the call...
But I'm not seeing it as enough, mostly because they are just getting murdered in the back court. Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills and Danny Green are capable NBA players, but not against what the Dubs roll out there. The game was even when Curry wasn't hitting; when he is, the Dubs are a lot better. That's too simple by a lot, but still.
A telling point from this one: with the clock running down in the third, Curry received a pass off a loose ball on the other side of the half court emblem, from straight on. Andre Iguodala knew, even from that distance, that Steph's heave was going to be better than his. Curry got up a shot just after the buzzer lights, and of course it went in... but that's not the surprising thing, really. Nor was it that the shot didn't get off in time; like most of the game, Curry was surrounded and didn't have clean looks.
No, what was amazing was that the shot was banked, rather than swished.
This is what must count for hope from the teams that are going to try to deny the champions a repeat; that Curry might, indeed, be slipping...