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The Warriors devoured the West, now hungry for winner of Bucks/Raptors

The champs used the Rockets and Blazers desires to lure them into inescapable doom. Will the same happen to the winner of the Eastern Conference?

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

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.

- Me, for GSoM

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

According to the gambling odds and most pundits. the Kevin Durant/DeMarcus Cousins-less Warriors weren’t supposed to beat the Rockets in Game 6 of the second round.

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.

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.

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 12 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.

Yesss, swim closer to the light. Closer...

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