Monday, May 15, 2017

The One Game Series

Today in Oakland, San Antonio started the Western Conference Finals like, well, how they ended the previous round. On fire, methodical, deadly with superior bigs, and just turning a dynamic offensive opponent into mush.

By the second quarter, they were doubling up the Warriors and holding a 25 point load. Oracle was dead, the announce team was pleading for some kind of run before the half to make the theoretical possible, and while things got a little better for the home team, it was still 20 at the break.

And then the series changed, and likely ended, with a turned ankle. The Spurs' downballot MVP candidate, Kawhi Leonard, who was having the best day of anyone on the court, landed awkwardly on a corner three, and had to leave the game. The Dubs picked up actual defensive intensity, and Stephen Curry joined Kevin Durant in the flow of the game. Draymond Green bounced back from his worst half of basketball in the playoffs. Slowly but surely, the lead eroded, until the Dubs finally took a lead late. And while it was still a one possession game at the close, and the home team never looked all that great or comfortable, it was still the result that everyone expected. Warriors 1, Spurs 0.

And I don't mean to put to much into this, because playoff hoop is all about putting too much into one game, but... it's hard to see the Spurs winning this series now, because this was so their game to have in Oracle. The Dubs were wildly out of pace and practice with court rust. Klay Thompson missed threes that I don't think he's ever missed. Durant and Curry looked utterly sympatico by the close of the game, and LaMarcus Aldridge has never been a good choice for go-to-guy, let alone go-to-guy because of injury. Sure, Patty Mills isn't likely to be this terrible again, and the Spurs are capable of bouncing back from any kind of early series loss, but there isn't going to be an easier game for them to get than this one.

As for the Dubs, they know they got away with a B game in this one, and that they've got major work to do to get back their air of inevitability after nearly getting punked in this one. But if Leonard's on the bench for any extended period of time, this series doesn't go five, let alone the Texas Way. The plus/minus from this game alone will tell you that, along with your own eyes.

Game Two is Tuesday, and Dub Nation will likely be a little late to start it, considering that national television is requiring a rush hour start time out here. Games cost an arm and a leg, so you'd think that people would just take the vacation day and be sure not to miss any of the game, but that's not how rich Bay Area people roll, honestly. Seven more wins for them, and you'll think the Bay Area took over the mantle of most hated fan base away from Boston...

But don't you believe it, because the real fan base -- who I observed in their natural habitat, which is to say in a strip mall sports bar less then five miles from the Orena, because that's where I'm living this week -- is still as bought in and leveraged out as always, because living out here means you just have to ignore income disparity as a survival skill. The fan base knows the Warriors are too good for them, and also know that the toothpaste is out of the tube for good, with the team leaving for SF in the near future. They won't lose anyone in the here and now because of it, but in the there and later?

Well, all eras end, and Curry and Thompson aren't the same players they were just a year ago, because the NBA is a meat grinder for, seemingly, everyone but LeBron James. Every team has a window, and the Dubs may have seen theirs stay open with the Game One comeback. Cavs-Dubs may seem and be inevitable, but for 2018 and so on? Not so much.

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