They’re 12-0, have won by an average margin of 16 points and have faced accusations of being so good that, as it relates to the health of their sport, they’re actually bad.
During the past six weeks, while matched only against opponents good enough to qualify for the playoffs, the Golden State Warriors have had exactly one game in which their lead was down to a single possession in the final minute.
On any random January day in the NBA, there could easily be seven or eight such games, even on nights when the Lakers are playing.
The lone example for the Warriors, however, was the opener of the Western Conference finals, when they rallied from 25 points down to defeat all the San Antonio Spurs other than Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, 113-111.
“It’s the playoffs,” Steph Curry explained afterward. “You’ve got to expect everything.”
And everything is what we’re expecting now – after Cleveland finally put Boston out of its misery on Thursday night.
The Warriors-Cavaliers rematch – a “three-quel,” if you’re into ridiculously made up expressions like “manscaping” and “D’Brickashaw” – has been assumed for roughly the past 49 weeks or so.
In terms of foregone conclusions, it would have been an only slightly safer wager to bet on the wind being windy.
The instant Cleveland rebounded from a 3-1 deficit to win the 2016 NBA title on Golden State’s home court these teams were projected to meet again a year later and for a third consecutive Finals.
Then, a few weeks after that, when the Warriors added Kevin Durant, those projections solidified in the same sort of way concrete solidifies, just a little harder.
Still, because ESPN has to have something to show and Charles Barkley can’t be given enough new material, the NBA staged its annual playoffs anyway, foisting teams like the Trail Blazers, Thunder and Pacers on a public that did nothing to deserve such treatment.
So, today, we’ve predictably reached this point, arriving here having experienced the intrigue of only two Game 7s, both of which were decided by double figures, and just three overtime games, one of which was decided by double figures.
By comparison, the Dodgers played four extra innings on Tuesday alone and 13 innings total in which they were never separated from the St. Louis Cardinals by more than one run.
Hey, NBA, when your entire postseason fails to match up suspense- and entertainment-wise to one midweek May baseball game that lasts in excess of four hours, you might have a perception problem.
Now, let’s consider what could be an even bigger problem for the league and the way it’s being generally viewed. What happens if, instead of everything, Warriors-Cavaliers III gives us nothing?
What happens if Golden State continues to turn winning time into garbage time, if this wake-up call instead produces drowsiness, the “three-quel” becomes more NyQuil?
“We want to see if we can take it to another level,” Durant proclaimed after the Warriors’ third straight sweep. “We’re not at our peak.”
And what’s higher than undefeated, exactly? I know this much: whatever it is, I wouldn’t want to fall from there.
Yeah, I know, there’s no way LeBron James and his Cleveland teammates are going to be dismissed that easily. But there was no way he and the Cavaliers were going to lose Game 3 at home to Boston, either.
Folks, I really believe this could happen. The Warriors won three of four against Cleveland to start last year’s Finals with Curry less than 100 percent healthy. And now they have Durant.
They’re averaging 118 points in the postseason and all everyone keeps talking about is their superior defense.
One coach called the Warriors “maybe the best defensive team in the league.”
“In all my years in the league,” said San Antonio’s Pau Gasol, a two-time NBA champion with the Lakers, “they’re playing at the highest level right now.”
I also believe there’s a danger in putting not only all your eggs but also all your chickens and roosters and baskets in one basket.
That’s what has occurred here to the NBA and to us as fans, three rounds of competitive playoffs essentially sacrificed for the hope of one spectacular super series pitting super teams.
Sure, it could happen, absolutely. But you know how it often goes, right, when you really, really want something to happen? Personally, I’m still awaiting two return calls from girls I asked out in high school.
On Christmas Day, the Cavaliers beat the Warriors in Cleveland, 109-108, James later saying the game “lived up to what everyone wanted.”
Three weeks later, in Oracle Arena, Golden State won the rematch, 126-91, the Associated Press, in noting how some Cleveland players were exiting before the final buzzer, reported the Cavaliers to be “beyond embarrassed.”
The potential is there, people, these Warriors, so in control in all their recent fourth quarters, already having a track record of dominating throughout and ruining the ending.
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