Last postseason, as the Golden State Warriors were engaged in their annual spring ritual of disposing of the Houston Rockets, I wrote a piece comparing the champs to a bizarre hunter that resides hundreds of meters deep in the ocean.
Are you familiar with the hunting tactics of the deep sea anglerfish? It is truly a terrifying sight to behold. It’s gaping jaws are born from nightmares, filled with jagged teeth. It’s stomach seems bottomless, capable of swallowing much larger prey. But perhaps the most curious thing about this monster is the way it lures its victims into swift death. You see, it has a protruding fishing rod known as an “esca,” covered in bacteria that glows in the dark.
The anglerfish emits a flashing light into the heavy darkness of the deep sea to entice the big eyes of hungry squid and other deep sea dwellers into a cruel trap. The other sea creatures swim over thinking they are sneaking up on a meal, and the last thing they see are those terrifying jaws opening up to consume them.
In that dark, near freezing environment, the anglerfish’s alluring glimmer is an unmistakable temptation. The dire conditions of the black depths forge the desperate hunger that drive assorted sea dwellers into the toothy gates of destruction.
That flashing esca lights up the darkness as a beacon of new possibilities; it’s only in the final moment of approach that the prey realizes there was never any hope at all.
Kinda reminds me of what happened to Houston and Portland as the Warriors took their fifth consecutive Western Conference trophy
“The Warriors have no chance of winning without Kevin Durant. This series or any other series.”— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 9, 2019
-Charles on Golden State pic.twitter.com/0KN2KDhb01
The logic behind it was simple: injuries to a team’s superstar normally spell instant playoff doom. That line of thought had been trumpeted by Memphis and Cleveland in 2015, San Antonio in 2017, and Houston in 2018. In fact, the Warriors “injury luck” seemed to be their biggest strength during their dynastic run depending on who’s telling the story.
Not playing any starting PGs in 15.— nick wright (@getnickwright) May 28, 2018
Kawhi in 17.
CP3 in 18.
All while not having any of their All Stars miss any WCF/Finals due to injury
Durant’s injury absence was supposed to be the end of the Warriors versus a supercharged foe like Houston, boasting the presumed MVP James Harden and a healthy roster. Rockets’ center Clint Capela had made it clear he knew Houston was the better team when evenly matched; how much moreso with the health advantage?
The Rockets drew near to that glimmering light of promise...only to find it was all a fatal delusion.
Rockets: We would've beat Golden State last year if Chris Paul hadn't gotten hurt!— crmichel_2007 (@crmichel_2007) May 11, 2019
Warriors: Beat Rockets in Game 6 in Houston without KD.
Dinner is served.
The Portland Trail Blazers were more cautious than the Rockets, but just as hungry. Portland had overcome underdog status in brutal wars against the Thunder and Nuggets to reach the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2000. The banged up and emotionally drained Warriors team appeared vulnerable; who better to hunt them down than a son of Oakland, Damian Lillard?
We could easily be looking at a 3-1 Blazers advantage today. Portland was so close to victory, swimming as fast and as hard as they could towards that twinkle of light, that glint of hope.
- Game 2: Blazers led by 17 points in the third quarter, and later by 8 with 4 1⁄2 minutes to go in Oracle Arena.
- Game 3: Blazers led by 18 in the second quarter at the Moda Center in Portland
- Game 4: Blazers led by 17 in the third quarter, again at home
Just listen to the crowd’s ecstatic eruption after Steph Curry missed his first postseason fourth quarter free throw since 2015.
That’s a fanbase hungry for a win, desperate for any sign of promise. Now watch Curry share a laugh with his little brother and opponent Seth, soaking in the madness, giving a prescient nod.
He had a secret: the Blazers were already dead, they just didn’t know it.
An overtime period later and the Golden Empire closed their teeth on Portland’s season, swallowing it whole.
Now Golden State lies in wait for the final time this season, patiently waiting in the darkness of the deep Splash for one more meal to satiate their unrelenting rapacity. What lies before them may be their hungriest opponent yet.
The Milwaukee Bucks as the favorite to win the championship... Why not? https://t.co/frTP8kidTG— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) May 18, 2019
While the Warriors are still my title pick, I wouldn’t be particularly surprised if the Bucks just destroyed them.— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) May 18, 2019
The Toronto Raptors (23-7) sweep the season series with the Golden State Warriors by defeating them 113-93 and win in the Oakland for the first time since 2004.— TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 13, 2018
Kyle Lowry finishes with 23 points, five rebounds, 12 assists and three steals. pic.twitter.com/mVTfUqAEct
Yesss, swim closer to the light. Closer...