Warriors-Spurs Game 1 turned the playoffs inside out Monday night, and for about an hour between the fourth quarter and the end of the second overtime, nothing made sense. Shaking off a basketball hangover this morning, there were two inescapable thoughts:
- "Wow the Warriors really found a way to blow that game, huh? That's incredible."
- "Thank God Manu Ginobili made that second three, because otherwise Gregg Popovich would've disemboweled him in the locker room after the game. In front of reporters and everything. It would've been horrible."
But there's a lot left to unpack after the Spurs double-OT win last night, and since I'm still sitting here unpeeling my brain, we're going to keep things nice and disorganized. With that in mind, here are some notes on the insanity from San Antonio Monday.
-- Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. Everyone fears Stephen Curry (and with good reason, we'll get to that), but Klay and Barnes are pretty much perfect as his sidekicks, especially since they both have the length and athleticism to guard three positions on the other end. Curry did plenty of damage in the first half, but Barnes and Thompson were just as valuable and left the Spurs just as confused on D.
-- That's what's so unfair about the Warriors. Beyond Curry, they have the personnel to create mismatches all over the floor, then have guys like Draymond Green, Carl Landry, and Andrew Bogut hitting the boards. Altogether, it's hard to imagine a supporting cast that would fit Curry's talent better. So when they blitzed the Spurs in the first half Monday without Curry going nuts, you couldn't help but wonder where this all goes over the next few years.
-- Question for the Warriors future: Are they better for the long term without David Lee? Or, maybe Lee comes off the bench going forward? I don't know. It seems like they've accidentally discovered a lineup that's twice as deadly as the one they'd been working with all year, kind of like the Heat in last year's playoffs. Lee is great, and I like him, but the Warriors the past 10 days have looked more terrifying than what we saw all year. Right?
-- Question for the Spurs future: Does it matter that Tony Parker can't guard anyone on earth? This seems like it should matter, right? Especially against Mike Conley if they get that far.
-- Question for TNT's future: I have always loved Dick Stockton and always will, but it might be time for him to retire. This isn't actually a question.
-- Steph Curry in the third quarter. HE DID IT AGAIN.
-- Lin is actually my favorite comparison for contextualizing Curry's performance. It's fun to watch any player dominate an NBA game all by himself, but it becomes 10 times as fun when it's someone who should never be able to dominate like that. This isn't to take away from Curry -- the more he does this, the less surprising it becomes. But for now, it's different than watching someone like LeBron James, Kevin Durant or even Dirk Nowitzki dominate. Those guys are aliens. They are so much more gifted than anyone else that it makes sense they'd render everyone else helpless. Meanwhile, Curry looks about as ordinary as an NBA player can possibly look ... and he still just goes scorched earth on people and turns games upside down to the point where everyone's out of breath from screaming and/or laughing. Last night was proof that the Denver series wasn't some kind of matchup-induced fluke and one more reminder that there's nothing more fun than that Stephen Curry. The spectacle of watching someone that small dominate entire NBA teams has been the best thing about the playoffs so far. It's just a never-ending parade of "Holy shit!" moments from a player who looks 15 years old.
-- Seriously, look at his teammates freaking out. It was a fun third quarter.
And then ...
-- WHO IS THIS FRIENDLY OLD MAN AND WHERE IS GREGG POPOVICH?
-- Friendly Pop might actually be scarier than grumpy Pop.
-- With the latter you keep your guard up and defend yourself. With friendly Pop, you might make the mistake of thinking this is all a fun game, right before friendly Pop literally bites your head off, grabs the microphone and turns into DMX here.
-- (Sometimes it's important to imagine Gregg Popovich turning into DMX during an in-game interview).
You should really read the Jack McCallum story in SI (it's not online, but here's McCallum explaining it). It's great, in addition to being an oenophile, a former spy, and the best coach alive, Pop also just seems like a pretty wonderful dude.
-- Meanwhile ........ God's favorite basketball coach was up 12 points at the end of the quarter. Curry had (somehow) played every minute of the game at that point, which was probably not smart. Given the lead, this would have been a good time to rest Curry for a few minutes. Mark Jackson decided against it.
-- The Warriors took a 16-point lead with nine minutes left. Another good opportunity to rest Curry for a few minutes. Mark Jackson decided against it.
-- Would we be talking about this if the Warriors had won? Of course not! This wouldn't even be a notes column in that case; it'd just be one long tribute to Curry's absurdity. But the decision to play Curry 48 minutes (and eventually 58) would still be dumb.
-- On the bright side, Jackson running his point guard into the ground (and the Warriors offense falling apart) left the door open for a Spurs comeback. So instead of settling for an all-time classic performance from Curry, we stumbled into the best playoff game of the year.
-- The Spurs went on a 26-10 run over the final 10 minutes, including a 15-0 stretch at one point, and the Warriors gave away a 16-point lead with four minutes left. None of it makes sense. It all ended with Danny Green's three to send things to overtime.
-- This was right about when we started hearing the psychotic lady Spurs fan screeching into the TNT crowd microphone (screeching video here). It was ALSO right about the time everyone on Twitter noticed that the AT&T Center ran through every volume of Jock Jams between timeouts.
-- STRIKE IT UP, SAN ANTONIO.
-- Someone needs to find the exact playlist from San Antonio last night, because it was truly some inspired stuff. Like stadium music directed by my mom.
-- "What's cool these days?" [finds 18-year-old CD of pump-up jamz] "PERFECT."
-- People on Twitter were complaining about all this, but the tacky music coupled with the psychotic lady is everything I've ever imagined from Spurs games. It'd be much weirder if they were bumping H.A.M. between timeouts in San Antonio.
-- Anyway, the game. The ending. When San Antonio sent it to overtime, pretty much everyone figured the Warriors were doomed. The offense had sputtered away the final minutes, and you know, giving up a 16-point lead in four minutes can be pretty deflating. But no. Even with Curry running on fumes, the Warriors got enough help from Jarrett Jack and Barnes to get a lead, and both teams traded huuuuuge shots, including Boris Diaw's three. Finally, there was Jack's kamikaze drive-and-layup to tie it.
-- The second overtime only upped the ante on insanity. And when Curry threw a supernatural cross-court pass to Barnes for a three, the Spurs answered by going on an 8-2 run, and then we got the following sequence:
- Green buries another three that feels like a dagger with a minute left.
- Curry makes two free throws to cut it to three.
- Ginobili inexplicably takes a deep three with plenty of time on the shot clock that misses badly, gives the Warriors a fast break, and suddenly it's a one-point game.
- Parker misses a jumper, Warriors hit a fast break with no timeout, and two seconds later Kent Bazemore hits a reverse lay-up with three seconds left.
- San Antonio full timeout to set up a last-second play.
- San Antonio 20-second timeout to reset.
- Warriors lose track of Manu Ginobili, he buries the game-winner.
God. Even re-reading all that makes me exhausted. What a game.
-- For the record, I'm super bummed that Golden State blew that game and wasted such an incredible night from Curry. This is so true, and so depressing:
This series went from "Golden State could win this series" to "Spurs could sweep" because of an eight minute stretch of basketball.— Brett Koremenos (@BKoremenos) May 7, 2013
It was classic Spurs, and (sadly) classic Warriors.
-- Also: MANU LIVES:
Pop on Manu's last two 3-point attempts: "I went from trading him on the spot to wanting to cook him breakfast tomorrow. That's the truth."— James Herbert (@outsidethenba) May 7, 2013
-- God bless Manu.
-- Follow Dragonflyjonez.
"Now if you'll excuse me. I have to go be one of those cartoon characters in those Red Bull commercials."- Manu Ginobli— D'Brickashaw (@DragonflyJonez) May 7, 2013
-- And now we're getting extra disorganized, so it's time to wrap things up. Let's just say this. The NBA Playoffs are always good if you love the NBA, but more and more the past few years, they've gone above and beyond, where "Good" becomes "completely perfect."
Monday was one of those games. Between Curry's third quarter, the Spurs comeback and everyone trading huge shots for the final 10 minutes in overtime, it had the outrageousness of an NCAA tournament game coupled with the best players on the planet. You couldn't watch Spurs-Warriors and not fall in love with basketball, at least for a few hours. When everything falls into place with NBA playoffs, it becomes basketball crack. Even casual users will get addicted.
Everything that happened in San Antonio on Monday was just one more reminder: the NBA has more talent in more places than ever right now, and we're going above and beyond every other night these days. It's all pretty perfect.
And we're not even halfway done.