Crunch Time: 500 Club
Three minutes, nine seconds to play. Cavs up 113-107. “It’s not over,” we tell each other. I don’t know who they are. They don’t know who I am. But we tell each other with utter sincerity: “It’s not over.”
Crunch Time – a close game with the clock running down. When the pressure pounds, when the tension blots out the rest of the world.
Crunch time is a time for guts – for “onions”. The Dubs have the stars, the shooters, the beautiful game. Do they have the “onions”?
Three minutes, nine seconds. Crunch Time will tell.
Pre-Game: The view from 30,000 feet
I’m flying in from LAX, still in shock. The flight left on time!
During the quick ride, I read that a Dubs sweep of the NBA Finals will cost the team, $22 million! What? Between legitimate ticket prices, illegitimate ticket prices, television revenue, revenue sharing, concessions, contracts, and other assorted ripoffs – $22 million.
Maybe because I’m high, I take this figure as a bad omen for tonight’s game. Why?
It sounds to me like NBA is putting out a feeler, running up a trial balloon, offering a bribe. Twenty-two million to blow game three and bring the series back to the Bay.
The Dubs Big Tech Brass would never sell their team out for 22 pieces of silver. Would they?
First Quarter: Delirium
Start up where I left off last game. Only it’s not the same. First of all, it’s a Wednesday and the bar is not overflowing. It’s breathable.
The game begins with LeBron James hitting this shot and LeBron James hitting that shot. And then Kyrie Irving starts going off in an unending series of highlights.
We get the picture. The Cavs’ will stick with their old game plan: LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Repeat.
So it’s the Dubs against the LeBron Irvings.
In addition to LeBron and Kyrie, the Dubs’ Klay Thompson is unstoppable, going for 21 points in the first quarter and the Dubs lead 39-32.
Second Quarter: Giordanos
In the first two minutes of the second quarter, Draymond Green commits three turnovers, including an offensive foul he clearly didn’t commit. And yet the refs call him for it.
It is no secret the NBA is pissed at the Dubs for recruiting KD. Unfair, said the Commish. And who has more expertise in lack of competition and lousy products than a government-protected monopoly?
With the NBA at odds with the Dubs, an early question was how the refs would call the fouls. Especially after they gave the Cavs license to beat up Steph Curry last year.
The guy with a long white beard howls at the refs. “They hate us for who we are” he says to me amidst the din of a KD dunk.
The fouls keep going the Cavs way, but the 3 point shot keeps the Dubs on top.
Halftime: Esta Noche
Big Tech has transformed the Dubs into what may be one of the best teams in the history of the sport. The metamorphosis, which we have witnessed while wandering 40 years in basketball’s desert, has been nothing short of miraculous.
Even miracles have their costs. One of many costs the Mission has paid, has been the closing of Esta Noche, the first Latino gay male bar in SF. Esta Noche opened, survived, threw drag parties on 16th street and thrived despite intense gay bashing around the neighborhood. But it couldn’t survive the Tech quake that unearthed the New Dubs.
Third Quarter: The Bond
The Bond has taken over from Esta Noche, and let’s put it this way: The Bond’s got a different vibe.
As do the Cavs, who come out determined to undo their Third Quarter undoings of the past two games. The LeBron Irvings go into high gear – one driving right, the other driving left, one hitting the mid-range jumper, the other a reverse dunk.
Meanwhile Kevin Love turns into a rebounding machine. On one Cleveland possession, he gets three – three! – offensive rebounds.
The Dubs are missing shots and they’re getting out-hustled and out-fought as the Cavs dive onto the floor or into the stands to grab a lost ball.
All of this could explain the weird atmosphere at The Bond. It’s got the biggest screen on 16th street, but it has the disjointed intimacy of a private company party. There are a fair number of people, but far more engaged with each other than the game.
Suddenly I feel like I’m in the Red Room in Twin Peaks. I run out into the fog, then duck into the Delirium, hoping to chase the Devil out of the Dubs’ defense before the fourth quarter.
Doesn’t work. The LeBron Irvings continue to carve up the Dubs like medieval ivories and lead 94-89 at the end of three.
Fourth Quarter: 500 Club
It’s not over, we tell each other. But every time the ball finds LeBron James or Kyrie Irving, it falls into the basket. The Cavs maintain a 4 to 7 point lead through most of the fourth quarter.
The tension builds.
“Slow and easy,” the guy next to me implores Steph Curry, who doesn’t pay any attention and jacks up a perfect 3-point shot to cut the deficit to 4. Then Klay Thompson hits a 3 and the Dubs are down by 1. But the Cavs get it back to 3, and then, with 3 minutes and 9 seconds to play, J.R. Smith hits a 3 – 113-107.
“This is when a coach earns his money,” says a guy in a Dubs jersey. How will the Dubs respond?
By strangling the Cavs. Green, Thompson, Iguodala and the team at it’s defensive best.
Draymond stops LeBron, and KD gets the ball. LeBron prepares to meet him below the three-point line. Gracefully, without stopping, without thinking, before James can react, KD rises behind the line and hits a 3.
Later, Klay Thompson says the plan was to take on LeBron and Kyrie with only one defender and hope they would wear out in Crunch Time.
Crunch Time – the Cavs miss 8 shots, half taken by you know who.
Crunch Time – the Dubs outscore the Cavs 11-0.
Crunch Time– the refs don’t call the Dubs for a single foul!
Whether you go out Friday night or stay home, keep a broom at hand as the Dubs try to sweep to a championship and lose $22 million.
The series from the Mission