Cleveland would have to re-write history (again) to come back from 0-3 in an NBA Finals. Golden State has a chance to make it going 16-0 in a playoff Friday night. Which will it be?

By Andrew J. Pridgen

Ever been on a date when things are just clicking?

You meet up and share an embrace, but it’s not forced or awkward or too sweaty. You somehow fit together just right and want to pause time, stop the world from spinning—this is it. Everything feels good, everything smells good and for a moment everything that is happening around you swirls to a magic blur as if the sun itself rose just to watch that moment that day.

Drinks, check. Going great …conversation flowing in time to the hum of the servers and the tuning fork of laughter around you. The appetizer comes out smoothly as you both discuss literature and travel and that clever little music reference you keep for only when things are going well totally works.

Dinner is splendid. The chef comes to the table as you sample your newfound partner’s scallop and asks how long you’ve been a couple. The two of you blush and say, “The is our first date.” The restaurant erupts into applause.

You walk toward her place or maybe his, hands spark and tingle as they touch. It is the most intimate thing you can imagine, this moment.

There you are suddenly, at the threshold, at the base of the steps looking longingly at the front door, lit from the inside, warm, inviting and full of secrets the both of you so badly want to unlock. You both want to, but you shouldn’t. There are pauses and “ums” and mentions of a work thing early in the morning.

You bite your bottom lip, she tugs at her ear and checks her phone really quick. OK then. OK, we’ll call/text/talk/make plans. Because this is it and so…. And so, the lean in and there it is: The pause just before, you’re breathing each other’s breath and here it comes that first, fate-sealing, angels waking up just to watch it and sing. It’s so lovely that moment before and then the soft landing, the patient first brush of the lips and …

Sorry. Sorry, I think we bonked heads. Let’s try it again. Wait you’re turning that way, OK I’ll turn this way. OK, here we go, take three. Let’s see where should my hand go? There? No. OK. How ‘bout there? Ugh. All right. How ‘bout down there? Oh, that’s a hell no. OK, I’ll just put my hands to my side. Is that your tongue? That’s your tongue. Where’s it going. Careful, I didn’t brush back there. Are you an alien? Are you impregnating my esophagus with your demon spawn coming out of that thing? OK, you’re backing out, that’s better. Your lips are like sucking on a plunger though. This is a mess. I never felt like I needed a dental dam for kissing.

…And then you part.

“Well, it was nice,” you say.

Lie.

“Yep.”

Another lie.

“Do it again?”

Lies.

“Sure.”

Lies. Lies. Lies.

“OK.”

“OK.”

Handshake.

You watch the perfect date ascend the stairs and put up an unrequited wave, gone for good. You think on the last two minutes that erased all the time before and think, Well, that went well.

And you start on down the road.

That was the Cavs Wednesday. As prophetic and grand their performance was through the first 46 minutes, somehow leaning in for that deal-closing first kiss produced disastrous results. It wasn’t that they let up it’s just that the Warriors were that other kind of date that night.

…They were running late and missed you at the first bar. You left but got a text, Sorry, here now, work thing. Can you come back? Against your better judgement, you do but things are all wrong. The place is too crowded so you go to the one a couple doors down and nobody is there, so it’s awkward. Conversation goes from not flowing to stagnant—and even though there’s nary a soul in the place, it’s impossible to get service. Dinner is out because you missed your reservations so you walk around a bit and eventually grab a slice because you’re fucking starving and don’t care. You’re cold and tired and uncomfortable in work clothes and need a shower and you just want to get back home and watch Netflix. You walk up to your place and go in for the handshake and suddenly, for no reason, your lips meet and bam! That kiss. The angels stop their weeping and eventually the devil comes out rejoicing. You meld into one like the bad Terminator and suddenly you’re somehow involuntarily, animalistically attached. Nothing can stop you. You’re on the ground. Really? On the ground? Yes, oh fuck it this feels too good. You claw blindly for the door handle, ignore the mail in the entryway, and can’t quite remember what happened next. Jacket on the floor, shoes kicked off and into the TV, magazines and books flung off the couch arms and legs and what is that? Oh, an elbow…and Please, do. Not. Stop.

And you wake up thinking: How did that happen?

Out of nowhere the Warriors burst into such a frenzy, whipping up 11 straight points turning a six-point Cleveland advantage into a five-point deficit at the buzzer. It started with Irving’s missed lay in with two minutes to go, his shot so automatic careening around the hoop as he fell out of bounds. Then came LeBron clanking a 12-footer. And the icing was a missed wide-open three-pointer by Korver at the baseline. All the ingredients that had come together so well for the Cavs that night, suddenly flopped.

Then came Kevin Durant. The MVP who chose to come to the juggernaut of the West in the off season barely found his rhythm with the new squad over 82 games. Did the Warriors need a fourth All-Star and a second superstar? Could they play together when it counted or was it just one of those dream team-type scenarios where the end product on the court isn’t what was promised on paper? The Warriors showed flashes of both brilliance and awkwardness with Durant during the regular season, but the tell-tale time came from late February to early April when Durant, sidelined with an injury, watched his adopted team rattle off a 13-game win streak. There were rumors that the Warriors didn’t require Durant, or worse, might be better off without him.

Then he came back. Then they got going.

Throughout the Warriors 15-0 playoff run thus far, it has been Durant and Curry fully understanding one another. A fast break featuring the pair midway through the second quarter had Durant flashing toward the hoop for an easy dunk or a highlight-worthy alley-oop. Curry in an “I see you KD, but I’m gonna go ahead and do this” moment, pulled up from three feet beyond the arc instead sunk a three.

KD’s reaction: Fist in the air as he hustled back on D.

The Warriors know there’s enough to go around. Indeed, after LeBron clanked his 12-footer, KD, with 45 seconds left, grabbed the rebound and marshaled the Warriors on offense. He dribbled twice past the half court line, Cleveland not quite set up, and launched a dagger three. Good. It happened so quickly, decisively and painlessly that neither the Cavs on the floor or the fans in the stands could react.

It was a super-villain choking you to black holding a gloved index finger over his lips and just saying shhhhh …it’ll be over soon as he strokes your hair and you fall asleep:

We are all prisoners of our own past. The Warriors, up 3-0 in the Finals, still carry with them the specter of being on the wrong side of the biggest finals comeback in NBA history courtesy the greatest player in NBA history in LeBron. They are unrelenting as a result. Present-day KD, though not a part of that squad last year, has his own score to settle against the King. His 22-year-old self left the court in tears after his young and not-fully-formed Oklahoma City Thunder were dismantled by LeBron’s Big 3 Miami Heat in 2012.

Five years is a long time to simmer.

For the Warriors, if Steph Curry is to be believed, “We’re in that situation, why not take care of business and finish the job?” —it’s about completing a task a year in the making.

For Cleveland, it’s about re-writing history once more. NBA teams down 0-3 in a playoff series are a perfect 0-126 thus far.

Who knows? Either could happen. As we well know now it’s not over …till the first kiss.

Andrew J. Pridgen helps run sister site Goner Party and is the author of the novella “Burgundy Upholstery Sky”. His first full-length novel will be released in late-2017.

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