“I know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperately that you’re right, yet to fail nonetheless. It’s frightening. Turns the legs to jelly. I ask you, to what end? Dread it. Run from it. Destiny arrives all the same. And now, it’s here. Or should I say, I am.”
—Thanos, Avengers: Infinity War
For the past five years, the Golden State Warriors were superheroes. Though their last half-decade was peppered with defeats, it was largely one of triumphs. They defied odds; they weathered injury. For five years, they beat teams through means most Hollywood writers would balk at. Some will tell you they made the league worse — I’m not one of them.
Truly — I can’t hate a team that gave me Game Six of last year’s Western Conference finals or forced the rest of the league to chase them. To paraphrase Jim Gordon in Batman Begins, the Warriors really started something. Escalation followed. And the game’s as thrilling as it’s ever been. (The Playoffs alone featured two game seven winning buzzer beaters.) Ditto everyday life: superheroes exist, in no small part, to make mortals reach for the best of themselves more often. I’m not saying Stephen Curry and company have made me leap tall buildings in a single bound, but tough days? They’ve certainly helped. Every highlight is a gut check and call to enjoy your profession more, to do better.
But if ten years of Marvel movies have taught us anything, it’s this: nothing gold can stay. And after two games of this year’s NBA Finals, it’s clear that the Warriors are in their endgame now or, at the very least, their twilight. The writing’s been on the wall all season; it’s different to see it in play. A cursory Google search could’ve told you Robert Downey Jr’s contract at the Mouse House was finished, but nothing prepared you for “rest now.” Golden State, despite defeating the Raptors 109-104 last night, is headed for its endpoint. They could win the Finals. They could lose them. It doesn’t matter. Destiny’s arriving.
Let’s look to Game Two for proof. If the Warriors first game in Toronto was their Infinity War, yesterday was their Endgame. Draymond Green played the roll of Hawkeye, calling himself out over the weekend and giving hell to almost every Raptor (particularly Kyle Lowry, who Green got into foul trouble and just blew by on this early possession). DeMarcus Cousins was almost Smart Hulk, offering an evolved version of his bruising gifts as a surprise starter and offering necessary muscle. The whole team made sharp adjustments, dominating under the rim where they were soft last Thursday and counting on their bigs in crucial moments. The Raptors scheme all but dared Andre Iguodala to take his game-clinching shot — he didn’t blink or miss.
The Warriors’ entire second half was an against the odds and numbers triumph (at one point, they were ahead despite shooting 28% from the floor) Like in Endgame, however, victory may have come at an unimaginable cost:
There’s no overstating how important Klay is to Golden State. He made the team’s first nine points last night; he’s an all-time great shooter. During the first quarter, a Seventh Seal parody ad aired starring he and Michael K Williams (!) that reinforced what makes him magic — a talent grounded in the mystically intangible. Klay’s best plays seem to bend time and space. He barely breaks a sweat. He’s the Warriors’ Dr. Strange and, as of today, he may be riding the bench in Game Three.
There’s an argument to be made this is proof the Warriors are championship bound. Part of me is buying that! Golden State stole one from the Raps in Toronto with injuries to Klay, Iggy, and Kevon Looney. KD’s return is imminent. If the Oracle crowds bring their always intimidating thunder, it will be very difficult for Kawhi and the Raps to steal one in Cali. Sadly, that isn’t the point.
The point is this — no matter what team you root for, it’s hard for me to imagine watching last night’s game and not feeling a melancholy, palpable sense of the inevitable. The phase of the Warriors is coming to an end. Dread it. Run toward it. It’s arriving all the same. I can’t wait to see what’s next.
- You’ll notice I didn’t write much about the game. There wasn’t much to write about! It was, in essence, a sloppier version of Game One. The Raptors still relied on uncontested threes; Kawhi was worn-down but effective. Fred Van Fleet and Siakam did grown man things that Toronto will need even more with Game Three on the line.
- This stat destroys me:
Serrano’s on point: Game Two was a back and forth affair that could’ve been decided by a slightly shorter mood swing. That applies to the first quarter too, where Toronto’s 7-0 run was countered by Golden State’s eight uncontested buckets. Basketball is wild.
- Drake Watch: on a scale from 1 to “In My Feelings,” Aubrey was a “6” tonight — he had one costume change (I’m not kidding) and was vocal on occasion…but Klay also served him up in the tunnel post-loss:
I cannot describe the feels I have seeing Klay go full Pusha on Drake; also “bum-ass” is the most Klay insult. Try even saying “bum-ass.” You can’t. It’s a Klay thing.
- From Katie Pierce and The Turf slack:
Fantasia Barrino is giving a master class on how to sing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ right now and then followed by ‘Alessia Cara’ singing Oh Canada I’m in heaven.
- This slam made my soul disembody for a moment…
…Not so much for everyone:
- The “Quietly Clutch” award goes to Jared Cook, who hit three crucial threes for the Warriors in the third quarter during their TK run. There’s been a lot of (fair) noise about the Warriors’ bench depth and last night Cook silenced it.
- Lastly, the Ford Vs Ferrari trailer debuted during Game Two’s first quarter and if we don’t start treating James Mangold like an A-list Director? I will burn Utica to the ground.
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Week 7: Redemption Week. Which Teams Get Back On Track?