A week ago, the Warriors entered Game 4 with renewed hope and with renewed commitment. Draymond Green had narrowly avoided getting suspended. Sure, the Warriors had gotten blown out in Game 3, but there was no way they'd lose two in a row, right? I mean, they hadn't done that all season.
Blowout. A big old season-altering, brain-hurting blowout. The final score of Game 4, 118-94, now seems way closer than it felt in real time. To add insult to injury, it was my birthday. Things did not look great. Westbrook was charging down the court like a rampaging Roman God, flinging hellacious passes and decimating the Warriors' soul. Kevin Durant was playing at the peak of his potential: a seven foot Dirk Nowitzki with Stephen Curry's handles. Things were bleak in Warriors land. The Thunder had finally "figured it out," and now the Warriors' magical season seemed all but over.
I remember sitting -- alone, in my thoughts, surrounded by a group of friends as the Thunder used the Warriors as a rag with which to wipe their floor -- thinking, "Well, this couldn't be much worse. But, hey now, the Dubs head home for Game 5. Maybe if they can pull one out at home (likely), they could find some of their lost mojo (sort of likely), and then carry that energy back to OKC where maaaaaaaybe, just maaaaaaybe they could pull out a game in the Sooner State, which would set up a Game 7, which could..." But then I looked back up at the television, and gulped. Game 4 was not a happy time.
And yet, here we are.
Seven days can be an eternity. Seven days of being subjected to Miley Cyrus records with no break would probably kill me. Seven days of looking for a lost dog -- with no good news -- would be hell. You can drive straight from New York City to Oakland in about three days (less if you're insane), so doing the trip in seven days constitutes a leisurely stroll of sorts through back-country America.
All year, the Warriors had been battling, one way or another. First, they were fighting the NBA's record for most games won to start a season. Then, they were fighting the notion that their success would not translate into other, more physical eras. Then they were clawing towards the Bulls' all time win record. And then they were in the playoffs, running free, but then...Injury! Agony! The gates came crashing down and everything just...stopped for a day until we got the news that no, in fact, Curry had not torn anything. And, yes, he might be able to make it back in two weeks if only the fellas could hold the ship upright. And then they battled the upstart Blazers. Curry came back, seemed off. Everything still hung in the balance. So, onwards! Past the Blazers, on to Oklahoma City! Where Westbrook and Durant stole a game in Oakland, got beat down in Game 2, but then blew the doors off in Games 3 and 4. And there we were, down 3-1. The entirety of NBA internet-dom waited in the wings, crying MJ memes locked and loaded.
The story had come to an end. The Warriors' magical run was all but over. At least, that's how the story went seven days ago.
Some fans were so confident, they placed wagers that, in hindsight, were not very smart.
Full disclosure: I enjoyed this video. A lot.
But then, we all know what happened. The Warriors did indeed come back home, win Game 5, and regain their confidence. They traveled back to Oklahoma City, stuck around long enough in Game 6, and then made their ninja move at the very end of the game. In Game 7, they went down by double digits, but then in the third quarter used their defense and their insane three point shooting to smother the Thunder.
When the going got tough, the Warriors bonded together. They congealed into a single-minded entity, and would not accept defeat as a possible outcome. Late in Game 7, as the wheels fell off for OKC, the Thunder could be seen yelling at each other, pointing fingers about missed assignments, arguing with the coach.
Oklahoma City was the better team in the Western Conference Finals. They were bigger, they were faster, they were hungrier, and they dominated the Warriors for vast swaths of the series. But it wasn't enough. When it truly counted -- crunch time in Games 6 and 7 especially -- the Thunder were not prepared for the emotional swings. They were not prepared for the Warriors' defensive intensity, and they were not prepared to go back to the Finals.
Seven days. Seven days was all it took for the Warriors to regain the title of 'NBA Finals Favorites."
I can't wait for this rematch. Healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love? Thank you thank you thank you. Everyone wanted to see these two teams battle at full strength. And now we will. Game 1 is this Thursday, June 2nd.