Big O Tires

This is the NBA Finals that will define the Warriors forever

This is the NBA Finals that will define the Warriors forever

There are no more ways to extol the virtues of the Golden State Warriors without redundancy. They have owned three consecutive regular seasons and three consecutive Western Conference playoffs, and just finished savaging the last one faster than any team since the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers, who didn’t have to play as many games as these Warriors did.

But now the season begins, and in the pass-fail world of the NBA Finals, this is the one that will define the Warriors for the ages.

After mugging the San Antonio Spurs, 129-115, to close out the West final in the minimum number of sanctioned events, the Warriors now wait for the resolution of Cleveland-Boston to begin the final assault on their destiny.

They did so without giving in to their occasional predilection for easing up on the throttle. They took an early lead, widened it slowly and carefully and made damned sure the Spurs never felt like they could do as the Celtics had done the night before in Cleveland. The Warriors were coldly efficient (well, okay, those 17 turnovers were bothersome but not ultimately an issue) at both ends of the floor and all points inbetween, and the result and its margin were both fair representations of the difference between the two teams.

In dispatching the Spurs, they became the first team ever to put 120 points on a Gregg Popovich-coached team three consecutive times; indeed the only time Popovich ever had one of his teams allow 120 in back-to-back games was when the 2005 team that eventually won the NBA title beat the Los Angeles Clippers and Warriors, both in overtime.

And while this series will be remembered as the one in which the Spurs had the least amount of weaponry, it will also be the one in which the Warriors will be remembered for wasting only one of the eight halves they played. It is difficult, in other words, to make the case that San Antonio would have won the series even with Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker. We do know it would still be going on, but the outcome seems only slightly more in doubt in such a case.

But as this affects the Warriors, this next series will dictate all of it. Win, and they can claim a mini-dynasty. Lose, and they will damned in the court of public opinion in ways that make last year’s 3-1 memes seem downright charitable.

It is the price they pay for being very good already and then adding Kevin Durant without giving up anything of real substance. It’s the price they pay for wanting it all and then doubling down for more.

People and teams who did that are not treated kindly unless they win everything that can be won, and the Warriors are now that team – like the Yankees of lore and Patriots of today, they are the standard of both excellence and excess, and marrying the two without danger is not possible, as they learned a year ago.

But that was then, Draymond Green’s wayward hand and five minutes of 0-for-everything shooting is just history. They can adapt and avenge if not eradicate the hard lesson of 2016 and be thought of as the team they all believe themselves to be.

All they have to do is take the Celtics or Cavaliers and ender them inert. They don’t have to do it in four games; chasing numbers is a fool’s errand as they discovered last year chasing the now-meaningless 73.

They just have to do it four times, and if they play as they have, winning 12 consecutive games by an average margin of 16 points and change  against three other quality teams, they will succeed at the hardest level basketball can create. And whatever people may say of them good or ill, they will have achieved what was demanded of them by both supporter and detractor alike.

And that, to paraphrase Kevin Durant, is what they came to do. Win the thing, and not worry about the numbers -- especially not the style points.

Mark Cuban admits Mavs tanked, Adam Silver has some explaining to do

Mark Cuban admits Mavs tanked, Adam Silver has some explaining to do

In the olden days when the Mafia was at its zenith, the worst thing a made guy could do was talk out of school. They took an oath of silence, and anyone who yapped got capped.

Pretty simple rule, all things considered.

Those days are done, though. Bosses, or in our example sports owners, can’t wait to tell us about themselves and what they do and how they make the sausage that they pass off to you as breakfast.

The latest example of this is Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban telling Dan Patrick that the Mavs tanked games like fiends in 2017, going so far as to explain the already well-known machinery of the tank.

This is news in the way that the Donald Trump/James Comey memo is news – you already knew it, but seeing the admission and/or the paperwork somehow makes it worse.

At least it does to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who heard the interview and then spent much of the afternoon trying to figure out how to strangle Cuban over the phone.

But that’s his problem. He makes the big money putting up with 30 mega-narcissists who can’t help spilling secrets when their egos get involved – which is always.

And now Silver gets to explain to a skeptical public how maybe 10 to 15 percent of his league’s 1230-game inventory is not on the competitive up-and-up for quantifiable business and qualitative health reasons.

Understand this is not a plea for sympathy for Silver. He’s known these maniacs for decades, and he’s seen the change in franchises’ opinions toward the regular season for years. None of this is new to him, and he has no solution for any of it save the threat of relegation to the G-League, which has less chance of happening than America respecting its politicians ever again.

Still, to have Cuban blurt it out so cheerfully and brazenly, while refreshingly honest, is a bit of a jar to the sensibilities. He knows no lawsuit against him will ever fail because the batteries-not-included print on his team’s tickets don’t promise anything but an athletic contest. On that minimal standard, he is correct, and anyone who knows anything about the modern definition of customer service knows that the minimum is all you’re getting, and that’s only if you’ve kept the receipt and know the store manager.

Cuban is banking, and probably correctly, that fans hearing the news that what they already believe – that tanking is not only plentiful but an actual strategy – is actually true works to the advantage of the owners and the business. It’s the intoxicating peek inside the abattoir that appeals to the avid fan, and his or her need to feel in on the scam while being scammed.

Hey, it’s a psychology thing.

Cuban’s view, in fact, is probably closer to league orthodoxy than Silver is comfortable with, given that the draft lottery is the very telegenic by-product of tanking. The league has monetized the strategy of not giving it your all, and the Philadelphia 76ers its very embodiment.

Now tanking actually isn’t an effective strategy most of the time because there just aren’t enough generational players to go around. It is, however, the only sensible alternative to just being the Sacramento Kings, and Silver understands that part clearly.

So Mark Cuban showed us how the sawing-the-assistant-in-half trick works because that’s what he does. Adam Silver will fine him, nothing will change, and next year regular season venues will be littered with parachutes from teams bailing on their traditional customer responsibilities.

In other words, Cuban just told us in his best Lee Strasburg voice, “This . . . is the business . . . we’ve chosen.”

One thing is clear after Warriors' Game 2 evisceration of Spurs

One thing is clear after Warriors' Game 2 evisceration of Spurs

OAKLAND -- And with that, all the side narratives for the Western Conference Final died the grisly deaths they so richly deserved.

In a game so desiccated of drama that not even a Red Panda halftime could save it, Golden State Warriors eviscerated the already perforated San Antonio Spurs by a final score that can best and most cruelly be described as “32 Minutes Of Garbage Time.” The actual numbers for you pedants are 136 to the homes and 100 to the guests, but unless you were giving 36½, you don’t really care that much.

And while San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich explained the size of the loss as the result of an almost team-wide timidity, the Warriors played at a level that almost no team would have been able to match, let alone one with a shredded roster.

Golden State made all the points upon which you may rely for the remainder of this series. They defended too well. They pushed the pace too well. They created open looks and converted them too well. They were the direct antithesis of the Warriors who began Game 1, and did not let up even as the margin became the seventh-largest in conference final history, and the final total tied for fourth.

Oh, and San Antonio doesn’t do a good job of replacing their two best players when confronted with the previous paragraph. Or, according to head coach Gregg Popovich, when only one player engages with the task before them.

“The only way I can process this is that I think it’s not O’s and X’s or rebounds or turnovers or anything like that,” he said. “I think we’ve maybe felt it too much, Kawhi (Leonard) being gone, in the sense that, as I watched, I don’t think they believed . . . I don’t think they started with a belief, and it showed in the lack of edge, intensity, grunts, all that sort of thing. When you’re playing a team that’s as good as Golden State, you’re going to get embarrassed if that’s the way you come out.”

The only player he exempted from this analysis was Jonathan Simmons, who replaced Leonard in the starting lineup and finished with 22 points in 25 minutes. “He was one of the very few who came to play. Jon was great, on both ends of the floor, he was intense and he came to win for sure.”

But the fact that Simmons stood nearly alone was only San Antonio’s issue for one night. The more compelling truth is that the Warriors have pressed their post-Leonard advantage, outscoring the Spurs, 194-133, putting math to not only the matter of belief but the different in present talent levels as well.

“It’s funny you mention that,” said Stephen Curry (29/7/7 in 30 minutes), whose pull-up three seven minutes into the game gave the Warriors a double-digit lead that only bloated as time went on. “I was watching them right before the game, at the National Anthem, and they were having fun, pretty light on their feet, the normal pregame get-hyped moment. It looked like they were all in tune. But when the game starts it’s who wants to grab that momentum early and set the tone for the game, and I think we did that a little bit better tonight.”

So maybe the answer to the night’s most ridiculed question was 2:28 into the game, when Zaza Pachulia cut to the basket and dunked over nobody, or maybe it was Klay Thompson’s open-look 20-footer a minute later, or Curry’s second three with 4:52 left in the first that gave the Warriors their first double-digit lead. Pick a shot, any shot. The game came and went almost too quickly for the human eye, and the rest of the night was just a matter of waiting for the Inevitable Express to pull into the station.

That pace of domination by Golden State likely cannot be maintained as the series heads to Texas, nor does it need to be. The mesmerizing effect of style points is always greater than their true value.

But Golden State’s style is defined largely by its use of defense and pace, which it lacked through much of Game 1. Seeing its effects in Game 2 have probably refreshed in their heads the easiest way to, in Curry’s words, “to avoid getting into bad habits and keep our feet on the gas pedal.”

At this point, the likelihood is that this series will not see the light of next weekend. Popovich may get the belief he is looking for this weekend in San Antonio, but belief alone falls well short of the standard required to beat these Warriors. Belief can prevent this level of embarrassment, but in its present state San Antonio clearly struggles to master Golden State’s multiplicity of weapons.

Believe that.