The Warriors are poised to send Cleveland some champagne and a note on Sunday. “You just had more.” It would read.
The Warrior faithful are holding on to memories. Memories of a near-perfect regular season which already seems like it was a season ago. Memories of a Western Conference Finals comeback the likes of which had not been witnessed prior. Memories of a 3-1 finals lead and the supposition that the ballet would continue as-is till the inevitable final curtain.
Forces conspired against them. The league benched their heart and, in doing so, stripped them of their soul Game 5. The Warriors over the ensuing 96 minutes have played a depleted, if not defeated kind of basketball.
Where there were once pirouettes and gliding at eye level above the rest of the earthbound Cavaliers, there is now but a solitary image of a student protester standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square, burnished in a still frame for all time. You know the outcome, but can’t bear think it. Within mere seconds that life ends underneath the useless grinding of machine gears that symbolize something much worse.
LeBron James has suddenly been brought back to life as if he’s busted through the leather straps on a gurney and is motioning for the bolts in his neck to be turned twice more to the right. He is as unstoppable as a marital argument over finances. He is hitting from mid range, long range, and in a few thundering circumstances, obscenely close range. He is passing and swatting and more importantly, ignoring defenses, or rather dissecting them like a Ginsu knife did a phone book.
It is an odd phenomenon to see one man roll back the clock a decade within the span of one game, but he somehow managed to locate the humming source that levitates him to heights unparalleled. Looking down upon the game’s greats of today, maybe ever, LeBron has decided that he wants to be back there. Back in the iso-age. Back when he alone was the king.
But is he alone in his endeavor? No.
The truth is, and pile on the accolades and the cliche mightily, the Warriors have now been playing playoff-caliber basketball for nearly nine months. Think of them as a woman carrying twins going into her 42nd week. At this point, they have conceded that they care little about the outcome as long as it comes out.
The Warriors Game 5 and 6 have not relished the competition, the joy of being on the court; it is in the eyes of their field marshal, Steve Kerr who is usually a mix of snark and steel-eyes — but is instead a limp balloon on the bench. Kerr and his ever-recovering back, which forced him to watch from the coach’s office for the first third of the season, is a constant reflection of his team.
If Kerr’s clip-board breaking antics of Game 1 was a reminder of his well-timed but not often employed role of the lion — it certainly appears that was his final flourish rather than a rally cry.
If only the Warriors were built for yet another seven-game series.
They needed to close in five. And yes, the league had other ideas. And yes, the officiating has been dismal and merits review in the off season. If the tapes are to be dissected, the number of non-calls for both offensive and defensive fouls in the Cavs’ favor far outweigh any good calls for either squad.
But life is about overcoming adversity, not whining about it till it ejects you or fines you.
The Warriors are still holding onto the cliff’s edge, completely out of oxygen and sunlight yet still trying to ascend to the summit of the greatest of all time; though the outcome seems at this point, inevitable.
There’s already a bit of nostalgia feel going into Game 7. The Warriors wanting to be back up wherever it was they’ve come down from. The world is a little more silent now with them looking like mortals again. The game they so convincingly evolved over the past two seasons has been taken over by a once-in-a-generation freak of nature and forced a step in the opposite direction.
The Cavaliers’ brand of basketball is not beautiful or poetic. It is gruff and moody and violent and broken looking.
Watching the Warriors contemplate a surrender during the past two games, casually throwing all that came before in a moment like so many errant passes — is faintly rotten.
But if they can somehow see past the fatigue and injuries and forces of gray and black beyond their control and look from green eyes once again and watch the basket grow bigger, move as one and lift up from the floor, together — a final feverish rush of something more.
…Well then, that would be something special.
The NBA’s last chance to fine or suspend the Warriors this year happens Sunday.