The Clippers lose big to the Warriors and the NBA world again forgets it’s December
Increasingly, the marathon that is an NBA season has seemed to shrink into a night-by-night sprint. It’s a perception thing, really. With League Pass and Sportscenter and NBA TV and sports blogs and Twitter, we’re almost forced to crown a new champion each night. Maybe this is a good thing, since any smart NBA fan knows the regular season is too long; Maybe this thin slicing of the season combats that fatigue. But, it’s slowly wearing away at our collective understanding of time and change and the way an NBA season works.
With each succeeding year, and more strident calls from media honchos (not your favorite bloggers or writers, but the people who pay them) for minute by minute coverage, the media falls all over ourselves to declare the next seismic shift in league-wide thinking. It seems to happen every week, with each new poll and power ranking. After the Warriors stomped the Clippers — one of the best teams in the season’s first quarter — on Wednesday night, 115–98, the Warriors are again predestined for a ring.
Yet, on opening night the Spurs were the champs after they blew out the preseason favorites in the Bay. Then Cleveland became a back-to-back champion because LeBron was passing a lot, Kevin Love was smiling more, Kyrie Irving was still healthy and the East was a mess. Then, Cleveland dropped some games, including one at home to the Clippers, who righted the ship after dropping some easy games on a road trip out East. But now the champion is again Golden State after they thrashed that same Clippers team on a Wednesday night in December. You see what’s happening here?
No one game game really matters right now in the NBA. Each contest is a scrap of information about a team or player that could be useless four months from now. It’s December. Last year at this time the Warriors hadn’t lost a game yet and David Blatt was still the coach of the Cavs.
But what else should we expect after two of the best teams faced off against one another on national TV?
After one game, the Clippers are in trouble and the Warriors are unstoppable. Well, until they aren’t, which could be as soon as tonight when Golden State faces a very good Jazz team in Salt Lake City. Twitter, in all it’s impulsive glory, was ground zero for this sort of whiplash thinking.
All of those Twitter users are smart, knowledgeable NBA heads. But that’s how NBA Twitter treats regular season games — like they have to affirm something larger about the season and the team and the players involved.
There was some interesting, though mild reporting about the game, though. Jonathan Tjarks had five interesting takeaways from the game including that one-sided Blake Griffin vs. Draymond Green matchup (Blake went 5-of-20 from the field, and Dray actually shot well from deep). But one of the things Tjarks mentions is how Steve Kerr staggers his lineup of stars and Doc Rivers amost always plays Blake, Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and DeAndre Jordan together and lets his son, Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford and spearhead the second team’s offense (J.Crossover was great last night, finally). Except, Kerr gets to finagle perhaps the greatest collection of talent ever assembled on a basketball court, with four All-NBA standouts that haven’t yet reached their 30s and the last three MVP winners, whoile Doc’s gotta deal with nepotism charges and 2/5’s of a starting lineup that stars as a bickering fictional family in State Farm ads. The Clippers aren’t as talented as the Warriors; no one is. Why do I see flashes of a straw man on my computer screen?
Also of note Wednesday night, the Warriors, with the best shooting backcourt of all time and the best 6–11 shooter of all time only shot 23 percent from 3-point territory on the game. Yet they still blew out the Clippers. Game, set, match. The Clippers and Warriors aren’t a rivalry, etc. It’s over, etc.
Perhaps my favorite part of last night’s game was how this second quarter Blake Griffin putback jam seemed to embolden the “this-game-is-a-long-way-from-over” crowd. To them, I write: this season is, too.
But then there was Mo Speights throwing kindling and fuel on the fire emoji take that the Clippers are impotent against the Warriors. The former Warrior told Bill Oram of the Orange County Register what the differences were between his old and new team and of course we’re going to read a bunch of aggregation about this because it’s juicy and seems true:
There was some fun writing about the game, though. Ethan Strauss’ itinerant lyricism was on display in his writeup for ESPN (“another crescendo squeezed into quiet” is something Wordsworth might’ve enjoyed atop Tintern Abbey). But no where did he unravel a season-wide trend or theme from the game. It’s December.
Washington Post scribe, Tim Bontemps, who now lives in the Bay to cover the Dubs full-time (sorry John Wall and Bradley Beal), wrote about how the Warriors’ psychological advantage over Doc’s squad after taking the last seven straight from them.
But Bontemps also wrapped his writeup with a graph that seemed to give Golden State the upper-hand in a theoretical May matchup:
And after losing to Golden State in comprehensive fashion Wednesday night — in a game the Warriors didn’t even play well in — the idea the Clippers can do so four times in a best-of-seven series seems more far fetched than ever before.
(Yes, May remains five months away.) I got a feeling of deja vu when I read that part. During Golden State’s 73-win stroll through the regular season last year, no one thought they were beatable in a seven-game series, either. And that belief remained intact through a Conference Finals series that saw them go down 3–1 and into the Finals until Steph Curry’s 3-pointer clanged off the rim with 31 seconds left on the entire 2015–16 season.
But Bontemps wasn’t the only one reaching for a season-long theme after an NBA game in December between two great teams. The WaPo’s former NBA scribe, Michael Lee, did the same for The Vertical. It was yet another — and it feels real this time guys, seriously — look at whether this might be the Clippers’ last hurrah before they have to blow it up and start over again:
With Paul on the tail end of his prime and Jordan still limited offensively, Griffin is the Clippers’ best and most dynamic counter to the Warriors. And this is a critical season in determining the actual ceiling of a Clippers team with Griffin. Griffin and Paul likely will be unrestricted free agents this summer, so that partnership is on the clock.
Yes, Blake and CP3 are unrestricted free agents this summer, but it’s not like Doc is gonna trade them at the deadline. If he reads enough about his own team he might, but more likely — as he’s done the last three offseasons — he’ll keep grinding and try to figure out a way to beat the most loaded team in NBA history. No biggie.
Anthony Slater stayed away from similar season-long conclusions after the game in his own piece for the Mercury Bay News. But the quote he got from Draymond that concluded his piece will also conclude this:
“Someone just continues to beat you, you’re going to be pissed off about it. But at the same time, it’s regular season basketball.”