OK, can we start the season now?
You know, the NBA postseason, the one that really counts.
Before we attach a legacy to the golden Warriors, another deed has to be done. Because if the Champs fail to repeat, they’re destined to be known as colossal underachievers, the greatest team ever to gag on the Big One. The record for regular-season victories without the league championship is A1 without the filet mignon. And they darn well know it.
“[The record] is history, but there is added pressure on us there to win the championship,” Andrew Bogut conceded after victory No. 73 was in the record books. “With great things comes more responsibility, and this is one of those things.”
Or as Stephen Curry put it more to the point, “It would suck to not finish the job off.”
Yeah, it would kinda suck if the Warriors laid an egg in the postseason, all right. They enter the playoffs as the most prohibitive favorites in years. In the last two seasons, they own an 88-12 record with Curry, Green, Bogut, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes as the starters, and the first team is locked and loaded for round one.
Yet as we know, the regular season and postseason are not one and the same. Even Michael Jordan and his 1995-96 Chicago Bulls struggled to close the deal. After victories in 10 of their first 11 games, the Jordanaires squandered a 3-0 lead in the NBA Finals. It took them six games to put a 64-win Seattle SuperSonics team to bed.
If the Warriors follow suit, we can anoint them as the Greatest Team of the New Era at the very least. But then and only then.
HEAR THE THUNDER: So who dat gonna beat dem Champs?
The Spurs are the popular choice, but now that the Warriors have proved they can beat the geezers in San Antonio, they’re not the threat they used to be. No, there’s another team laying in the weeds that should have our attention even more.
Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Before Durant fractured his left foot, he was the Most Valuable Player and talk of the league. While K.D. recuperated, Curry stole his thunder and Thunder. He didn’t like it one bit.
“I don’t go home and not sleep at night, but it makes me go out there and say ‘fuck you, I’m going to go out there and be who I am and you can’t deny it.’” Durant said per ESPN.com. “Those guys, Steph Curry, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, players that are considered at the top of the league at that moment and right now, they deserve all of that. It’s nothing taking anything away from them. But I deserve it, too. I was definitely pissed.”
So guess who was the best player in each of the Thunder-Warriors games in the regular season? Yep, Durant. In fact, the Thunder had the lead in the fourth quarter each time, only to fritter away leads down the stretch. (Here’s lookin’ at you, Russell Westbrook.)
Not to say the Thunder would win the series, but in Durant, they have the only guy who can match Curry shot for shot in a best-of-seven series. If the ridiculously talented Westbrook ever convinced himself to become more of a team guy, the Warriors might have to pack their A game to beat them.
JUST SAYIN’: Now that the Warriors have set the bar at 73 victories, Balls sees no reason why the Athletics can’t at least approach it.
COLOR BLIND: Major League Baseball celebrates the anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut this weekend, but the sad fact it, the sport doesn’t connect with African-American and hasn’t for a long time.
The dearth of black pitchers is an eye-opener in particular. Only 14 were on Opening Day rosters, or about 1 of every 32 overall.
Major League Baseball has talked about the inclusion of black folks for years, but until the younger ones have more heroes and can actually afford to watch them on the field, that’s all it will be — talk.
SHARK WITH BITE: Joe Pavelski scored the game-winner in Game 1 against the Los Angeles Kings, the kind of clutch, blue-collar goal that wasn’t exactly a Sharks trademark in playoffs past.
Pavelski outmuscled Selke Trophy candidate Anze Kopitar for the puck, willed his way to the front of the right then beat Jonathan Quick with a wicked forehand shot inside the far post. That’s what team captains are supposed to do at this time of year.
Which begs this question again: Why the heck did it take so long for Pavelski to be get the C on his sweater in the first place? We know the answer — politics. Oldies but softies Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton controlled the locker room, and it took years for the higher-ups to muster enough nerve to do right for the team.
Now that the Sharks have the home-ice disadvantage in the series, the Kings may have them where they want them. But if Team Teal does advance to the second round and beyond, bet that The Big Pavelski will be the guy who takes them there.
YOUR TURN: “You really nailed it with your Bulls-Warriors column. Sports is supposed to be entertaining and uplifting, and the Warriors accomplish that while at the same time inviting everyone along for the ride, not just the Bay Area. Good insight.” — William Lawrence, San Francisco.