09 May, 2023
LOS ANGELES — As the seconds passed, the Los Angeles Lakers’ home stadium was filled with a loud volume and a jubilant buzz that wasn’t simply the sound of their supporters celebrating a 3-1 series lead.
Additionally, it was the dissonant drone of the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty, which seemed to groan under the weight of its own past and a current that was laboring to support it.
Klay Thompson kept missing crucial shots, his 3-of-11 shooting performance that night a sign of exhaustion and difficulty. With just 5.1 seconds remaining and his team behind by three points, Draymond Green threw the ball away in a crucial situation. The last hope, Steph Curry, was unable to make even one last shot attempt to try to maintain the hope.
There were so many indications that the Warriors club was an older, slower, inferior version of the team that had dominated the NBA for over a decade as a thrilling and windy game played itself out.
It’s possible that we shouldn’t give up on the Warriors just yet. Perhaps our sense of finality should be preserved by recollections of 2016, when Curry, Thompson, and Green made a comeback from a 3-1 Western Conference Finals deficit against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Perhaps that tank contains more magic.
The Warriors handed away a 12-point lead on Monday night at Crypto.com Arena, and they did it again in the fourth quarter when they allowed a 7-0 run to start the period and equal the game.
The Warriors seemed the way they had intermittently during the season and postseason: a version of their brilliance, yes, of what we remember, but worn out at the edges, fatigued in periods they previously controlled, and lacking in crucial situations.
It might become cliché to see two seasoned prizefighters engaging in one final battle. However, it seems more and more like a fitting comparison for this series. And the Warriors are the ones who are emerging bleeding, bruised, and beat up.
In this series, LeBron James has occasionally appeared to be getting older. But while they fight to keep their dynasty alive, the Warriors appear to be hindered by something that has changed or gone.
With his 27 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists, LeBron was able to push himself closer to the records he’s already broken. He also benefited from support that the Warriors’ three neither got nor gave.
Anthony Davis once again displayed outstanding defense while going for 23 and 15 points. With 21, Austin Reeves showed more promise. Of all persons, Lonnie Walker IV scored 15 points, all of which came in the last frame.
With Golden State, it was a different story. The now predictable turnovers, as well as missed layups and floaters from Curry, the type that made fans accustomed to the certainty of his performance shake their heads in bewilderment, interrupted their moments of promise. Also noteworthy were Thompson’s forced threes and Green’s errant choices.
It was similar to seeing the old Warriors, just slower, weary, and less confident. Every success was followed by a letdown. There is an aging streak for every glimmer of promise.
Even their box scores showed signs of weariness along with desire: Steph shot a terrible 12 of 30 while also having trouble shooting 3 of 14 from beyond the arc. 3 out of 11 were Thompson. Green had an 8-10-7 line, but he also appeared to be a step slower and a little less skilled.
The series is still ongoing. We have seen previously what even a small amount of momentum can spark in this Warriors squad, and a victory in Golden State on Wednesday would transfer that momentum back to Golden State.
But the Warriors’ present is overwhelming, and their future appears so hazy.
Green’s future in Golden State after this season is uncertain, despite the fact that he is one of the dynasty’s pillars. It also depends on whether Bob Myers, head of the basketball organization, who was responsible for this success, will return. His contract is up, and there are rumors that he may leave the Warriors if they do not significantly increase his compensation, which insiders consider to be a very serious possibility.
So many of these things can usually be cured by winning. However, losing may frequently have the opposite impact, which is why so much depends on how this series plays out. Imagine the Warriors failing to go past the second round, 11 months after winning an unexpected title.
A dynasty can end. Time will come for everyone and everything, sooner or later.
Over the following six days, one of two things will occur. Either the Lakers win one more game, marking the beginning of the end of Golden State’s current winning streak, or the Warriors will delay the passage of time once again by regaining their previous form in another incredible comeback.