The Pelicans had earned a fleeting lead towards the end of Game 5's second quarter last night. They’d sunk five straight shots from four different guys, with the one-browed god Anthony Davis doubling up on feral dunks. Both these teams are lean and love to run, and at this point the tempo was furious, the ball speeding from baseline to baseline, pausing only to swish through nylon. Playoff Rondo was pawing the ball around masterfully and feeding the beast, who looked as dominant as he had all series; Davis had 18 and 10 at by halftime. Oh well, Warriors up by three. This is still a game.
Then it was not a game, because the Warriors did what they do in every third quarter, and blew their lead open with a hunk of thermite. They won the frame by 17 points. By the fourth quarter, my dessert plans were more interesting than the contest. As has been clear for a few days now, the Pelicans were not going to give the Warriors any problems after all, beyond gently curbing their time off. Golden State was going to win this, and keep winning.
It was then, right after firing off a text message which read, “I’m so sick of the dubs,” that a sequence on the TV made me emit a guttural moan, as if each part of that bitter sentence had returned to sock me in the belly. “I’m so sick of the dubs” was a lie—a hopeful belief more than a sincere stance—because in truth, this is very hard to get sick of:
A play to spring Steph Curry open goes nowhere once a helping Mirotic slams shut his window; now a whole gaggle of dudes are aimlessly milling around in the paint, and Steph has extinguished his dribble. This possession looks deader than the Raptors. But a pump fake clears Steph for a doofy little give-and-go to neighboring Draymond, and everything changes. Suddenly four out of five Pelicans defenders collapse into a small pixelated pocket of space, suddenly Steph rotates in the air:
And it’s over. Three Golden State passes flashed around in a single second of clock and an open Shaun Livingston layup popped out like it was waiting there all along. Twenty dudes standing in the lane, and still the look is impossibly clean. Even their botched plays manage a maddening charm.
Yes, yes. Kevin Durant is a brittle faux-humble weirdo with 16 online burners; Draymond Green is a ball-wrecking wrecking ball and has never once shut his mouth (not even talking about the yammering—his trap is physically always open); Klay Thompson is a stoned, stone-faced automaton; Steph Curry is an insolent little Pikachu; and Kevin Draper does not deserve to feel the warmth of happiness. But holy shit does this team, in yet another season of assumed dominance, still look like they enjoy playing basketball, eliciting the most begrudging kind of affection.
The Warriors rely the least on the league’s most frequent and most expected action. So much of what they do is a hurricane of off-ball motion. You think you’re boxing out your man, but he’s leaked out and is already eyeing the 70-foot outlet pass floating right past half-court. Your man apperas to be just standing there, figuring out what to do with his big dumb body, but he’s actually an improvised pick for Curry to scurry around. For an evil empire, the Warriors are full of joy. Whatever failings they have, maybe of the nut-crushing or trophy-humping variety, they certainly aren’t aesthetic. If any part of me is rooting for the Rockets to claw their way out of the West, it’s more out of a naked desire for novelty rather than a preference for how they play the game.