After the game, Mark Jackson put into perspective the accolades that the Los Angeles Clippers held coming into the series. "We're going against two of the top 10 players in the world. I'm going against a future Hall of Fame coach. They are the No. 3 seed." Jackson repeated it twice in case any of us missed it the first time - we did not. The head coach of the Golden State Warriors, a team that just shut down one of the best offenses in the NBA without their best interior defender, was letting us know just how much they'd accomplish. Yet again. And maybe, this time, he has a point.
Of course, it comes down to a Game 7. A 48-minute (or more, considering this year's playoffs) intense affair that transcends most stakes in a professional game. If the Warriors lose, all this is salted away and told in hushed tones about the one time Jackson preached to media members, again, that his team had overachieved and he was right in the middle of the drama. And if they win, they play on, winning despite the constant upheaval from within and the constant chatter from the outside.
I spent 36 minutes whining, bitching, and moaning about every little play. Every isolation, broken play and blown defensive assignment was cause for snide tweeting. But Jackson isn't one to stress, or so he says. Just enjoy it, Jackson ostensibly claims. It took until the end of the season and now that we're at the sunset of Jackson's tenure as leader of the Warriors, it's time we just zip up the complaints.
"Well, I'm fighting for my life. My guys are fighting for their basketball lives this year." Jackson certainly didn't mean that this is his last series, or season as the Warriors basketball coach. Or maybe he did. The passive lashing out to management and media has antagonized many a fan. But tonight, of all nights, it's probably the time to let it go.
After an excruciating contest - one that left Chris Paul and Stephen Curry hunched over, hands on knees, before the second half had even begun - it's better to leave the stress and outrage for other outlets. In a series played by superstar players, injured players, role players turned Batman, and off-the-court storylines overshadowing it all, the game finally collapsed unto itself.
J.J. Redick missed open jumper after open jumper. Blake Griffin clumsily fell into awkward shots as Draymond Green hounded his livelihood over and over again. Stephen Curry airballed. Harrison Barnes iso'd in crunch time. Free throws were an irony. The heat wave got to the referees as badly as the players, with the stripes blowing on the whistles in search of something. It was as ugly as anyone has ever seen a basketball game played by the best athletes in the world.
As far as beautiful disasters go, this was the picture-perfect iteration of that poignant portrait. "This team won't be the same team next year." And despite Mark Jackson's weariness of it all, it was the only way that the Warriors could finish this season. A repugnant offense masked by a stifling defense, marked by an attitude that exemplified cliche'd movie toughness. The Warriors used to lose with excitement but are now content with winning with the kind of aesthetic ickiness that only lends satisfaction to its most hardcore fans.
So after 88 games and one more on the horizon, let's just enjoy this damn thing.
"I felt like Steph Curry up there."
Green's game is the total opposite of Curry's. Instead of the storybook jumper and the baby face, Green prides his game on the nasty business of bodying up the best post player in the NBA, Blake Griffin, and holding him to a 8-24 performance, with 3 of those shots against David Lee and Marreese Speights. Curry's step-back J is as filthy as it comes but Green's game is just as nasty and effective.
1. In the middle of the game, I posited that Andre Iguodala would have to take over if the Warrior shad a chance on the offensive end. The Clippers were inviting someone other than Curry, anyone, to beat them. With Klay Thompson's shot struggling and space hard to come by, Iguodala's isolation game fell through if only by necessity. His 11-point outburst kept the Warriors ahead by just enough before the fourth quarter of who-knows-what-happened came along.
2. I've got nothing left. After a full-body tan from a 90-minute drive after work from San Francisco, pray for me to make it home. It was a sauna swirling in a jacuzzi baked in a microwave at Oracle tonight. Let's hope the Warriors can bring it - whatever it is - just enough one more time.
Saturday night. 7:30 p.m. Game 7.