This wasn’t so much a game as it was a searing reminder of asymmetrical power. Sure, the Warriors could have played better three-point defense, over-extended themselves less often towards dribblers and died on fewer screens. That would have certainly helped make this less of a blowout. But on a night like tonight, what does it matter, really? When faced with so inexorable a force as Kevin Durant on his game, is there any option other than to submit meekly?
One sequence best highlighted the talent chasm between these two teams. Westbrook swooped in on a greased zipline to throw an axe through Curry’s layup. Durant grabbed the ball, smoothly accelerated down the court, and unloaded on the rim like a wave that slowly builds before crashing all at once. To see it was to know that Golden State isn’t beating this team in a series, or probably any other team in these playoffs for that matter. The Warriors are a well-coached squad, with much to take pride in. But all the pride and dedication in the world aren’t overcoming the physical deficit against an elite team like OKC.
I’ve been listening to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast series, in addition to doing some reading on Genghis Khan’s Mongol army. Carlin paints a wonderful visual picture of how those nomadic horseback peoples appeared so terrifyingly exceptional. Unlike sedentary city folk, these Mongol warriors rode horses from age 3 on, and developed incredible musculature from operating a 160 lbs bow in adulthood. They were the athletic freaks of their day. They wholly overwhelmed ground-bound, slack-jawed regular joes with a brutality and efficiency that can’t be replicated sans electricity in modern society. Thank God for that too, because these guys created the illusion of snowcapped mountains by stacking the bones of the conquered on hillsides.
Khan’s Mongol army was a collective human force of nature that didn’t look so human when compared to the humans they were killing. When watching Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (who missed some layups) rush at the Warriors with a force I associate with military transportation vehicles, I was reminded of Khan’s mongols, sweeping through a once proud civilization and rendering it ash. The Warriors clinched the playoffs last game. After this game, it felt like the Thunder had eliminated them from the postseason. It wasn’t quite like seeing human bones drape the Oakland hills, but perhaps OKC’s saving that trick for the playoffs.
It’s not Golden State’s fault. They have a fine player in Stephen Curry, and a few decent surrounding guys. Mark Jackson spoke of “charging this one to the game,” as if to indicate that such a learning experience simply can’t be avoided. If so, he’s right. The Oklahoma City Thunder can’t be stopped. At least not by this roster as of yet, and not over a seven game series. Until the Warriors develop better health (Andrew Bogut sprained his ankle, again) in combination with some faster, bigger help, a low seed is likely the ceiling. Regardless of seeding, it’s difficult to escape OKC’s ultimate wrath out West.