Thunder-Warriors matchup lives up to showstopper billing

Thompson on Iguodala: 'He saved us all'

Thunder-Warriors matchup lives up to showstopper billing
November 14, 2013, 11:15 pm
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Russell Westbrook's 31 points and go-ahead three-pointer with 2.3 seconds left weren't enough for the Thunder. (USATSI)

Many customers who extracted their eyeballs’ full value from Oklahoma City-Golden State Thursday night made it clear that they would happily take a series between these two teams in May.

A series that goes about 23 games long and is never ruined by the spectre of having to play any other teams.

Of course, they had just watched the Warriors prevail, 116-115, because Andre Iguodala’s heat vision with no time left was one point better than Russell Westbrook’s heat vision with 2.3 seconds left. The game was everything the Warriors have promised since they became the new item on the right side of the menu, and reminded folks that they are currently the best value for your entertainment dollar.

[RECAP: Warriors 116, Thunder 115]

They traded laser tag bursts with the Thunder for an entire half, pulled away in the third quarter when Oklahoma City’s legs, drained a bit by having had played against the good Los Angeles against team the night before, and withstood a champion’s rally late in the fourth. It was a statement game of the highest order.

Or would have been if it wasn’t Game 9, if there weren’t still 153 days left on the schedule, if they didn’t already know they were a very good team on the verge of elite-hood, and if they hadn’t already established their big-game bonafides against San Antonio back in May.

In other words, this was just an incandescent game like so many others for a team, as the gamblers like to say, on the come. It was better than most games because it was Oklahoma City at its most competitively ornery, but it merely added to the level of giddy expectation that is growing in Oakland as this team seeks its destiny.

Oh, they won’t shoot 61 percent from three-point range every night, although the NBA may give some thought to making their shots inside the arc be the treys just for degree of difficulty purposes. And they won’t win a lot of games when outrebounded by 17, or when they allow the other side’s best three players to go for 31, 27 and 20, and Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant did.

And yes, we know Durant is the best of the three, so don’t get all linear on us.

So the matter of what this game says about the Warriors really isn’t that much of a point to make. What it says, we already knew. What it means is hard to say. What conclusions can be drawn are whatever conclusions you want to draw.

But whatever the lessons are, they were seen by the entirety of NBAWorld, and impressions like the one Iguodala left so soon after Westbrook left his will linger awhile.

[RELATED: Warriors earn first 'marquee win']

The Warriors are capable of severe defensive lapses and stretches of exemplary repulsion as well. They do not yet go aggressively to the basket in all situations that call for it. They are six-deep in a league that usually requires one or two more.

On the other hand, they are demonstrably fearless, capable of taking and making any shot at any time, and share the basketball with each other to an almost jaw-dropping degree. They are wise beyond their years together, and in summation are a destination for people who once thought the league began and ended with the Heat, Lakers, Spurs and, once upon a time, Celtics. They are Run TMC with greater substance, and they are We Believe with better reason to do so.

But they will also scare the hell out of you, as they did Thursday night. They are not yet done being what they intend to be, and had Iguodala’s ball rimmed out, the drive-home narrative would probably have been how they couldn’t close out a game they had.

But that’s the hell of expectations. They are part of the adults’ table now, and they are expected -- required, even -- to carry their share of the conversation, as they did Thursday night.

Now they just have to get the league and Thunder to okay that first-team-to-twelve series, and we’ll all get what we want. And, frankly, what we all need.

 

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