I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I saw on Monday night.
It was a hell of a watch — much like most of this series, it was a highly competitive slugfest. To say it was a thing of beauty would be … well, it would be a lie.
The game was sloppy. There were 41 fouls called (with at least a few utterly baffling ones) and many more that arguably should have been called. There was at least one heart-breaking injury.
The Warriors were done for, more than once. When Kevin Durant’s sore calf became a torn Achilles early, when Kawhi Leonard scored 10 straight points late to give the Raptors a six-point lead and perhaps again in the final sequence.
As it pertains to the remainder of the NBA Finals, it’s hard to know what to take away from it. The Warriors are so physically depleted that it’s impossible to predict what they’ll be able to muster for Thursday’s Game 6.
What we can say unequivocally about this team is really just one thing — they deserve our appreciation.
The Warriors’ refusal to die on Monday was proof positive of what those of us who have watched this team day in and day out have known for years: they are Champions. Yes, champions in the sense that they have won three of the last four titles, but also in the harder-to-define, colloquial, sports sense of the word.
In the words of Steve Kerr — who was paraphrasing Liverpool FC coach Jurgen Klopp — after losing Durant the first time this postseason, “Our boys are f**king giants.”
It may very well be the end of the Warriors “Dynasty,” no matter what happens Thursday. Without even dipping a toe into it, we all know this offseason could change everything. Everything except what we’ve watched the last five seasons.
This has been some of the most beautiful basketball anyone has ever seen. This has been one of the greatest teams anyone has ever seen — not just the assembled parts, but the whole that often seemed to somehow be greater.
We had never and may never again see two superstars on the level of Steph Curry and Kevin Durant willingly share the ball and the spotlight with one another. We had never and may never again see a starting lineup with the raw talent of Curry/Durant/Thompson/Green/Cousins, however little we actually saw of it.
Four years ago we saw a group of youngsters defy the odds (and Charles Barkley) to win the title as a “jump-shooting team.” We watched a skinny kid out of Davidson become the best shooter ever and join the short list of two-time MVPs. We watched a lanky superstar out of Texas by way of Oklahoma City become the consensus best player in the world (however short his reign may have been).
Which brings me to Monday’s crushing blow — Kevin Durant’s Achilles tear. Sorry if it disappoints, but I can’t muster an iota of interest in what this means to Durant’s free agency decision-making or his future overall.
I spent 33 days listening to the jibbering stupidity of the suggestion that KD was delaying his return, that somehow he wasn’t anxious enough to get back. For a month, those moronic voices repeated their idiocy, while the best player in the world was doing nothing but working his butt off to get back on the floor.
He could have sat idly by while the Warriors lost, and walked away knowing they needed him more than most thought. You might think there was no incentive for him to push himself to return — you might think that, if you don’t know what it means to be a Champion.
In the end, KD probably pushed himself too hard. We’ll never know the precise relationship between his calf strain and this Achilles injury, and it’s difficult to see the point in assigning blame. We do know that Durant, like his erstwhile teammates, showed the heart and fight of a f**king giant.
He gambled (and lost) with his own personal health and career for nothing more than the opportunity to compete at the highest level in the game he loves. He sacrificed himself for his teammates, a thing he has done consistently since his arrival in the Bay, no matter what national pundits might say.
It’s why he fit right in to this group filled with selfless Champions. The same fire that drove KD was burning in Steph when he pulled up for the game-tying three; in Klay for the go-ahead bucket the next possession; in Draymond for the game-sealing block at the buzzer.
It’s rare to see this many giants on one team. Even with Durant sidelined, the wealth of unselfish talent and dogged determination is an embarrassment of basketball riches.
This season is almost over, and perhaps a dynasty with it. Perhaps not — I certainly haven’t ruled out a KD return, nor a KD-less Warriors team remaining in contention. Before we get to that, though, there’s a title to be decided.
The product of these final days may not be the fourth banner we all expected, but there are certain things we can count on. We can count on two of the best shooters of all time emptying their chambers; we can count on one of the best defenders and distributors we’ve ever seen finding innumerable ways to impact the game; we can count on guys suffering from injury, old age or both to reach deep into their reservoirs for one last big push, one last time at Oracle Arena.
This Warriors team was as unlikely as it has been amazing to watch. Their assembly required a remarkable confluence of circumstances, a healthy dose of luck and some uniquely spectacular players and staff.
If this is indeed the end, let’s try to enjoy what’s left for us in these final days — a bunch of f**king giants.
Matt Kolsky is a sports media professional (or something like that) and lives with an aging Shih Tzu/Schnauser mix in Berkeley. You can hear him on the Bay Area sports radio station 95.7 the Game, 3p-7p every weekday evening alongside Damon Bruce and Ray Ratto. You can listen to his podcast, The Toy Department, on iTunes or wherever else fine podcasts are free. You can find him on Twitter @thekolsky to share your personal feelings about this article or any other topic, he will respond to most tweets that do not contain racial slurs.