Sunday, January 21, 2018
Sports

If Warriors don't rally, critics will tear them apart

Inside the cramped Golden State Warriors locker room in Oklahoma City late Tuesday night, there was deflation bordering on a sense of utter disbelief. Players dressed in silence, blankly staring into smartphones, looking for answers, or perhaps it was sympathy.

Andre Iguodala slumped in his seat, wearing a yellow T-shirt that read: "Strength in Numbers." Except the numbers were all trending the wrong way for the Warriors, the defending NBA champions, who were suddenly in a 3-1 Western Conference final ditch, looking up at an Oklahoma City Thunder team that had taken more than the two games in successive blowouts at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Within 48 hours, the Thunder had stolen their identity — a team all season tagged as irrepressible, unstoppable and irresistible, and now just bewildered by the beatdowns they'd had to endure.

The Warriors' record-setting 73-victory season was officially on the brink, and no amount of pronouncements that the series wasn't over could dispute the Thunder's budding ascendancy, or Russell Westbrook's dominance, largely at the expense of a struggling Stephen Curry.

Klay Thompson, who gave Golden State a fighting chance in Game 4 with a third-quarter outburst, glanced at a box score of the 118-94 defeat.

"I mean, we had 40 assists; that's a positive," he said.

In the interview room, he took another look at the sheet in front of him. "No, never mind," he said. "Fifteen. Way off."

Fifteen measly assists from a team celebrated for its ball movement, its sharing, or four more than Westbrook alone.

Curry, the two-time league MVP, paled next to Westbrook, missing 14 of his 20 shots, turning the ball over six times, weaving little of the magic that had made him a global sensation.

Facing elimination at home in Oakland tonight, the Warriors also could soon be looking at a critical dissection of their collective achievements, from last season through this one.

In the build-them-up-and-tear-them-down culture that passes for talk show and Twitter disseminated entertainment, you just know that some people will be champing to reconsider the Warriors' 2015 playoff run.

There will be the predictable chortling from the Old Guy network, all the way back to Oscar Robertson, and especially from loyal defenders of the Michael Jordan generation.

Following up their franchise's first title since 1975, the Warriors had the audacity to better the record 72 regular-season victories claimed by Jordan's Chicago Bulls in 1995-96. Then Curry was unanimously voted MVP, a show of perfection Jordan was never afforded.

To a generation of his peers and fans, Jordan is the godfather of all that is historically great, and Curry has been the beneficiary of a sport gone soft. With all due respect, they say, he couldn't do what he has done in the era of hand-checking.

Charles Barkley, Jordan's inept golfing partner, weighed in by saying: "People think us old guys hate when we talk about it. ... But I've never seen the NBA as bad as it is, and I've been saying it the last three or four years."

Of course, that becomes an indirect indictment of the Warriors, a commentary on the quality of their competition, as if the Jordan-era didn't have teams not worth watching.

Yet the inalterable truth is that the 72-victory Bulls did punctuate their historic regular season by winning a championship over the Seattle SuperSonics.

Better than most, Warriors' coach Steve Kerr knows the harsh standards by which they will be judged if they do not rally, even if it was his contractual duty to dismiss the carry-over weight of the 73 wins. "To me, they are separate issues," he said. "We had a tremendous regular season."

He added, "In the playoffs, everybody starts 0-0."

New York Times

Comments
Lightning falls to Wild, its fifth loss in seven games

Lightning falls to Wild, its fifth loss in seven games

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Lightning said all the right things about needing to look in the mirror and do some soul-searching during its recent funk. Veterans said they had to lead the way. Coach Jon Cooper believed this eight-game trip would "show us wha...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Why free agency hasn’t turned out fun (yet) for ex-Rays pitcher Alex Cobb

Why free agency hasn’t turned out fun (yet) for ex-Rays pitcher Alex Cobb

RHP Alex Cobb never expected to be going into late January without knowing where he was going for spring training.The longtime Ray's first foray into free agency hasn't gone as planned, much like the 150-plus others waiting for something to give in a...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Wozniacki advances to quarterfinals

Wozniacki advances to quarterfinals

MELBOURNE, Australia — Second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki is through to the Australian Open quarterfinals and with a chance to regain the No. 1 ranking in women’s tennis. Wozniacki beat Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3, 6-0 today at Rod Laver Arena. Rybarikova...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Sports in brief

SPORTSNO AIR FORCE GAMES; NFL BROADCASTS ABROAD IN JEOPARDYThe federal government shutdown prompted the Air Force Academy on Saturday to call off sports events and upended plans for military outside the United States wanting to follow today’s NFL con...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Florida wins big SEC showdown with Kentucky

Florida wins big SEC showdown with Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Jalen Hudson came off the bench to score 17, and Chris Chiozza, Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes contributed clutch baskets down the stretch as Florida rallied to upset No. 18 Kentucky 66-64 Saturday night. "We were able to win it jus...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Avalanche climbs into playoff spot with ninth straight win

DENVER — The Avalanche has gone from pushover to powerhouse in less than a season, and its recent streak is evoking memories of past glory. Nathan MacKinnon, Erik Johnson and Mikko Rantanen had a goal and an assist each, Jonathan Bernier made 27 save...
Updated: 5 hours ago
After rout, LeBron scoffs at playoffs

After rout, LeBron scoffs at playoffs

CLEVELAND — LeBron James came up just short of 30,000 points. Oklahoma City nearly got there, too. Unable to stop Paul George, Russell Westbrook or Carmelo Anthony, the Cavaliers were embarrassed 148-124 Saturday by the Thunder, which not only rolled...
Updated: 5 hours ago
McIlroy shoots third-round 65, trails by 1 at Abu Dhabi

McIlroy shoots third-round 65, trails by 1 at Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Rory McIlroy fired 7-under 65 Saturday in the third round of the Abu Dhabi Championship to move one shot behind co-leaders Ross Fisher and Thomas Pieters. Fisher shot 65 and overnight leader Pieters added 67 to reach...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Sunday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballMiami at N.C. StatenoonCh. 44Rutgers at MichigannoonBig TenWomen: South Carolina at KentuckynoonESPNUWomen: Marquette at VillanovanoonFS1Women: George Washington at DaytonnoonCBSSNWomen: Virginia Tech at Virginia12:30 p.m.Fox S...
Updated: 6 hours ago

National Hoopfest: St. Petersburg’s Serrel Smith shines in loss to national power

TAMPA — Where there's a will, there's a way. And Serrel Smith had a gym-full of will on Saturday.With St. Petersburg trailing nationally-ranked Oak Hill Academy by as many as 21 points in the third quarter of the National Hoopfest contest, Smit...
Updated: 6 hours ago