Stephen Curry has missed the last 10 Warriors games with a groin injury. Draymond Green has missed nine of the last 11 Warriors games. The Warriors have looked mostly like crap over that stretch, with losses at home to the Bucks and Thunder, and road losses in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and to the Clippers. I don’t mind saying, it’s been great!
Among other things, stretches like these allow embittered basketball fans like me to gloat at a whiff of dubious evidence that Kevin Durant can’t be the main guy on a truly great team, even while flanked by championship-tested veteran teammates like Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala. It’s flimsy consolations like these that warm the hearts of jaded NBA fans on random dreary Mondays in the early parts of a season promising less championship suspense than the end of Hoosiers. They don’t need him! Truly Kevin Durant is just some guy.
But what this stretch has so far lacked is the one signature loss, when the Warriors go down, preferably at home, to a team broadly considered to be a piece of crap. The Orlando Magic of this season seem much better than the Orlando Magic of last season, but the sample size is small enough that it’s probably safe to say we’re all still expecting them to regress to their usual piece-of-crap condition soon enough. Monday night had all the makings of a really satisfying Warriors loss.
The Magic held a 17-point lead at halftime, in Oracle, and were still up four points after a rocky but non-fatal third quarter. That lead would twice grow as large as nine points in the fourth quarter. But cheesy-ass Kevin Durant—fresh off a heroic 44-point performance in a one-point win over the Kings—ruined everything with a 29-point second half, featuring two monster buckets in the final two minutes. First came a driving and-one bucket with 1:19 left on the clock to put the Warriors up a point, and then an ice-cold isolation three-pointer from the top of the key with 21 seconds on the clock to put the Warriors ahead by four. The jerk even sank the two freebies to establish the final margin.
Those were the final points of a dominant 49-point outing, and the result was a 116–110 Warriors home win that in all likelihood pushed the next great chance for a truly exhilarating Warriors loss all the way to next winter. Soon Steph Curry will be back, possibly as early as Thursday. Draymond Green is still day-to-day, which by definition means he could be back any day now. When they are back at full strength, they will steamroll the rest of the league and cake walk to a championship, and that’s before we even get to the DeMarcus Cousins part. All we have is this all-too-brief stretch when, down two absolutely vital starters, the Warriors are vulnerable enough to make Kevin Durant briefly look like a TOTAL FRAUD. How dare he spoil that thrill by not actually being one.