So much of the talk this postseason has been based on a false idea that there needs to be a singular alpha on the Golden State Warriors who is most responsible for the team’s success. The potentially non-existent but dramatized Stephen Curry-Kevin Durant arms race took centerstage before the latter moved heaven and earth to return and be an incredible teammate, only to suffer a brutal leg injury.
If the the Warriors are to prevail in seven games, it will take contributions from the bold-faced names and role players alike. And while everyone had a good laugh at that Wall Street Journal piece that basically said it takes a village, perhaps it didn’t go far enough.
Last night, facing elimination dead in the face, Golden State showed championship mettle. Yes, the Splash Brothers hit big shots and DeMarcus Cousins looked revitalized. But on the final possession, when it mattered most, it was three of the Other Guys who stepped up to keep title dreams alive.
Kawhi Leonard, he that cannot be stopped, received the ball at the top of the key with just under 10 seconds remaining. He had Klay Thompson one-on-one, needing only a bucket or a trip to the foul line to go ahead. This is what the Raptors wanted. It’s how they won the Eastern Conference Finals, thanks to an adventurous journey around the rim.
But Steve Kerr brilliantly employed a kitchen sink strategy to prevent this from happening. Andre Iguodala, who has forgotten more big defensive plays than most have made, charged hard and cut Leonard off, forcing a toss out to Fred VanVleet.
Any chance of a storybook ending to the storybook story VanVleet has been writing was thwarted by Shaun Livington, who closed out as if everything depended on it, because, well, it did.
VanVleet flipped the ball to Kyle Lowry in the corner. It’s the moment every kid dreams of growing up. One shot with the world championship hanging in the balance. But there was Draymond Green, like the nightmare of reality, swooping in and deflecting the potentially heroic heave, leaving it to sail far from the rim.
It was a brilliant defensive possession, one that required total buy-in and max effort. Golden State was once again up to the challenge. Anyone who needed a reminder that dynasties do not die quietly and without protestation received one last night.
Toronto will have to take the crown from the champs’ cold, dead hands. And they’ll need to do it before those hands get a hold of their throat.
The next 48 or 96 minutes of basketball are going to be spectacular. It feels as though anything is possible.