Good news for the Jazz and every other team in the NBA.
Competitive outcomes in the league are not written in the stars, not even written with any exactness by the stars.
I — and darn near everybody else in the universe — was wrong about the invincibility of the Golden State Warriors. Turns out, teams do have a chance against them. This year and in the years ahead. They are within shouting distance of being beatable, even in a best-of-seven playoff series, at least by a team as good as the Houston Rockets.
Somehow it seems more attainable for contenders and potential contenders to get busy and match what the Rockets are and have as opposed to what the Warriors seemed to have and seemed to have been.
Houston is talented, but not otherworldly.
Regardless of the results on Saturday night in Game 6, based on what they’ve demonstrated in this series, the Warriors are, in fact, vulnerable. Their honorable opponents, the Rockets, have proved that the Dubs can be pressed into looking like a rather ordinary bunch.
Typically, the Warriors are great at making the ball pop, at spinning opponents into a state of defensive dizziness, at breaking them down, at hitting big shots, at closing out teams long before the fourth quarter even comes around. That could be part of the problem in this series — Golden State was and is not used to having to hold on and power through at the end. The Warriors are accustomed to having the matter wrapped up well ahead of the closing minutes.
Now, under pressure, more often than expected, they’ve fallen apart when it mattered most. They’ve collapsed as they were pushed hard by the Rockets.
It’s quite an accomplishment, one for which Houston deserves a load of credit. But not all of it.
The Warriors gave them plenty of help. They’ve betrayed themselves, blowing off body parts, one mistake at a time, with some of the worst play in meaningful games that they’ve put on the court in as long as anyone can remember, certainly since Kevin Durant joined them.
In watching the ends of a number of games, you had to shake your head in disbelief at what the Warriors conjured. They couldn’t move the ball, they couldn’t handle it, they couldn’t shoot it. And they couldn’t get stops when they needed them.
It was as though the Warriors had been beamed by some power into outer space, replaced by … what’s this, the Sacramento Kings? Yeah, downright weird. It was beneath what observers have come to expect from Golden State based on its own track record. The Warriors’ play of the past set that standard in a lofty place, not anyone on the outside with ridiculous expectations.
Losing was never any kind of consideration.
Winning was inevitable.
And then, the giants were reduced to being grateful for Chris Paul’s hamstring injury.
All of this is a reminder of what makes sports so amazing. Anything is possible, certainly when it comes down to two quality teams facing off against one another. And it’s bigger than just that.
Before Game 6 even happened, the rest of the NBA could take a deep breath, set their jaws and move forward with promise of a better day. The absolutes, the foregone conclusions had been swept away.
The team that hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy in two of the last three seasons, the team that has four All-Stars, the team that some, present company included, thought, once Durant arrived, would not, could not lose showed all sorts of cracks in its foundation. Cracks that perhaps can be opened wider by improving opponents over the next few seasons.
On the other hand, maybe the Warriors’ greatness will emerge again. That’s certainly possible. But they have shown enough humanness to give everyone else, teams like the Jazz, major new hope.
That’s something to celebrate.
Nobody wants to be able to foretell who will win the NBA title before the season even starts. What happens in May and June should be determined in May and June, not in October and November. The strange happenings in the Western Conference finals are a large part of why we all became fans of sports in the first place. If we know the ending before it arrives, what compels us to watch?
Nothing, really, other than habit.
Now, we have a reason to watch again, a reason to feed and foster the habit. On account of the fact the mystery has been restored, we’ll lean forward to the edge of our seats, and twist and turn as we discover what the days and games ahead will bring.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.