Everyone is pumped for tonight’s Game 7 between the Cavaliers and Warriors, as well they should be. Besides an NBA championship, there are legacies for the players and the teams, both short-term and long-term, on the line.
One game shouldn’t define a player or a team, at least not while that game is fresh in our minds. Everyone falls prey to recency bias. Time is the best way to determine whether or not something is the greatest. The problem with time, however, is that it takes its sweet damn time, and nobody wants to wait that long for a clear picture to develop, so let’s just make a bunch of declarations now, OK?
That is how sports talk works. You need to present opinions on the impact of a just-completed event and its space in history immediately. This is a corrupt way of judging something, but it’s the world we live in. And for this series specifically, there are very clear questions that will be asked about each team and some of its players no matter who comes out victorious.
While I have no idea what will happen on the court in Oakland, the chatter subjects in the minutes, hours and days following the final buzzer — barring the occurrence of some non-basketball-related event during the game, like an alien invasion — are pretty obvious. I’ll cover those topics now and give you my take so you don’t have to waste your time listening to others debate these issues after the fact.
If the Warriors win …
Is this the greatest team in NBA history?
On a single-season basis, I think so. Best record and winning percentage of all time. Although they were pushed to the brink in two playoff series, that shouldn’t weigh as heavy as the credit earned for ultimately winning against tough opponents. This team has shown its mettle in the playoffs. That should be commended. They annihilated the competition in the regular season, posted the second-longest winning streak in NBA history (dating back to 2014-15) as well as the association’s longest winning streak to open a season. They did it with purely sublime shooting, perhaps the best we’ve ever seen.
Are these Warriors, 2014-present, the greatest team in NBA history?
It was an amazing end to an amazing game.
Actually, it was a completely obvious end to an amazing game. Honestly, it was an expected end to an amazing game. It was a Stephen Curry end to an amazing game.
Just another night for the reigning — and soon to be repeating — NBA MVP.
Curry hit 12 3-pointers versus the Thunder on Saturday. Many of the behind-the-back, step-back, fall-down, nothing-but-nylon variety.
To that I say: So what? Sure, that dozen tied the league’s single-game record, but Curry has sunk 10 shots from beyond the arc in three games this month, including one such occasion at Orlando on Thursday.
Curry’s latest game-winner was launched 32 feet away from the rim — which isn’t that far compared to what he did just a few days ago. That distance might as well be a clear layup for Steph these days. Entering Saturday night, he had made 33 of 49 shots attempted from between 28 feet and half court. That’s 67.3 percent. DeAndre Jordan leads the league in overall field goal percentage at 69.1 percent. And someone remind me how many 3s Mama Hooper is chucking up on a nightly basis?
Curry’s 11th 3-pointer tonight was his 287th this season, surpassing the single-season record that he set last year. Yeah, when he made “only” 286 3s, surpassing the single-season record that he set during the 2012-13 campaign.
Plus, not only does Curry make a bunch of 3-pointers, he makes them often. Among players who have attempted at least 500 3s in an NBA season, Curry sits 1-2-3 in 3-point field goal percentage. He’s been at his best this year (46.8 percent).
While the NFL and MLB have recently explored shortening the length of their seasons, the NBA might want to cut off some games just to keep Curry from basically embarrassing its record book. He may have 288 treys now, but the Warriors still have 24 games remaining. At this pace, he’ll knock down his 400th 3-pointer during the final week of the regular season.
From 272 to 261 to 286 to … 400? If a baseball player takes that kind of sudden and drastic statistical jump, the masses are already discrediting his accomplishments with PED accusations. With Steph Curry, we can feel pretty damn comfortable insisting its his pure, unadulterated talent.
Hmm. Maybe I should amend my title statement. Curry’s talent is unbelievable. Amazing. Incomprehensible. What he’s doing, we’ve never seen anything like it. He’s having one of the best seasons of any NBA player ever. He’s still a couple of weeks shy of his 28th birthday — right in the middle of his physical prime — and can already be considered the best shooter in basketball history. At twenty eight. Incredible.
But on a case-by-case basis, what Stephen Curry does from deep has become standard. Watching it should make you feel giddy but by no means surprised. No matter the defense or angle or depth or situation, Curry has made you believe that he will drain every 3 he takes. You expect it. It’s not incredible; it just is.
Go look at that Vine again. Perhaps they were just stunned, but I think the Thunder’s entire bench assumed that ball was going in as soon as it left Steph’s fingertips. No one on that bench is grabbing their head in bewilderment. No collapses. No pounding of fists. Hell, Enes Kanter’s arms tell you everything: He knows that shot is good while it’s still in its descent.
He has seen this show before. We all have, over and over again. On this Oscars eve, Stephen Curry’s shot is like a masterpiece of cinema: No matter how many times you watch it, you can enjoy it. But you always know the ending.