Pre-Game: 4:48 a.m.
My head hurts. I turn over. I’m dreaming. My lower back aches. I turn over again. I’m not dreaming. My tight Achilles, my sore knee, sprained ring finger, blistered toe. I turn over and over, dreaming I am not alone, dreaming I am one of many, tens of thousands of Bay Area citizens, turning and churning; feeling the pain.
I’m not dreaming. Since the Warriors’ gutty victory Sunday night, it’s been one injury report after another, each one more gruesome and depressing than the last. Every body part is suspect.
And you know the games are going to get nastier. More physical. Defense is going to win this series. Down and dirty defense.
Then I wake up to the Big Question:
Where will Kevin Durant play next year?
Gossip after Game 2 tells us that if the Warriors win the Finals, KD will go to New York. But if the Warriors lose, KD will move into the Chase Center for life.
I begin to feel dizzy and dehydrated.
First Quarter: La Taza
A small claque of fans huddles around the bar. Jokes, beer, everyone in a good mood.
“My cousin’s at the game,” shouts a guy who holds up his camera so we can all see his cousin’s selfie at Oracle.
Then comes the announcement that Klay won’t play.
So much for that good mood.
In the early going, the Raptors torch the Dubs’ defense, doing anything and everything they want. They get and make open shots from long distance. Or they cut, drive, curl and bulldoze their way to the basket.
Center Marc Gasol leads the way. DeMarcus Cousins stuffed him last game, and Gasol is out for revenge.
Did somebody say “defense?”
Steph Curry connects from long and short range. No other Dub connects anywhere. On anything. The Raptors clog the middle and dare Green, Iguodala and Cousins to shoot from a distance. The three oblige. They shoot. They miss. With six minutes to go in the quarter, Steph’s got 14 points, but the Warriors have only scored 16 as a team, ten points less than Toronto after another Gasol dunk.
“This is unacceptable!” shouts a guy from the back wearing earbuds. I feel the same way. Others look down at their phones.
The Warriors manage to slow down the Raptors for a couple of minutes and with someone other than Curry making shots (Quinn Cook and Alfonso McKinnie), the Dubs pull to within four when Steph nails a three-point shot with 14 seconds left in the quarter. But the Raptors come right back and finish with a three from Danny Green.
Second Quarter. Barrel Proof
Stop in at Gas Head, but people are playing cards. At Barrel Proof, a fair number of Dubs junkies, the kind who watch the game instead of flirting with the bartender.
What happened to the Warriors’ defense? I expected them to have problems scoring but also expected a rough, ugly defensive game. It’s ugly, alright. The Raptors keep shredding them.
Cousins and Bogut dominated Game 2. Tonight Gasol and Ibaka dominate. Offensively and defensively. The Dubs can’t get past them and become one dimensional: Stephen Curry.
With eight minutes left in the half, the Raptors have scored a whopping 50 points. Already down by 10, there’s no way the wounded Dubs can keep up this pace.
But then the Warriors’ defense shows up. For the rest of the quarter, the Raptors will score only 10 points, 5 of those coming from Kyle Lowry in the last 30 seconds.
Raptors 60, Warriors 52. There’s hope.
And there’s The 500 Club.
Third Quarter. The 500 Club.
Usually, the Dubs can count on a huge third quarter when they play at The 500 Club. And tonight, like in Game 2, the Dubs come alive. But unlike in Game 2, the Raptors don’t play dead.
The Warriors get one stop, but they can’t get two. Andre Iguodala makes back-to-back threes, but the Raptors answer each time with one of their own.
With the fans at Oracle, some of the crowd at The 500 Club start half-heartedly chanting “Defense. Defense.” It doesn’t last. When the Dubs get the lead down to single digits, the Raptors take it right back up as Pascal Siakam repeatedly skates past Jonas Jerebko, who moves with the grace of an aging Frankenstein monster.
Under three minutes to go, the Raptors’ lead still only at eight. Then Danny Green, in a slump for much of the playoffs, makes back-to-back three-point shots and twice chases down Quinn Cook to block layups.
And just like that, the Raptors are up 13.
“We’re gonna need a big Fourth Quarter,” says the guy next to me in the Warriors t-shirt. “A Big, Bad Fourth Quarter.”
Fourth Quarter. Gestalt.
Where else to go for a Big Bad Fourth Quarter than Gestalt? I usually don’t go to games there (although they have the biggest screen on 16th street) because I still get bothered by ghosts from the Café Macondo, which used to inhabit that space.
The fourth quarter is no time for memories. But this fourth quarter reminds me of the preceding three. If only the Dubs can get a stop. If only . . .
Steph Curry gets hammered to the floor, gets up and sinks three foul shots. Right now, he has scored 43 points but the rest of the team has scored 46. And the Warriors only trail by seven. Make that nine as Ibaka sinks a jump shot. Make that 11 as Ibaka makes a hook shot.
Paging DeMarcus Cousins!
Steph Curry can’t do it all. Wait! Maybe he can. Steph deflects a pass, then dives to the floor for the ball. Next time, he steals the ball right out of Gasol’s hands. Then he leaps to the floor again for a loose ball, gets up and calmly shoots two foul shots.
How is he still on his feet? But no matter how extraordinary, Steph is one guy in a team sport, up against an excellent team.
Ibaka, Gasol, Siakam, Green, Lowry, Leonard and finally Fred Van Vleet, who puts away the Dubs when he buries a three-point prayer.
Raptors 123, Warriors 109.
The Warriors have scored 109 points in three straight games. Coach Kerr says that should be enough to win.
Obviously not, if the Dubs don’t stop the Raptors.
Tonight was Exhibit A why “Strength in Numbers” probably won’t be enough unless those numbers include Klay and KD. Will they be healthy enough to play in Game 4? One or both? Healthy enough to make a difference?
Of course, the Big Question remains: where will KD play next year?
Sources suggest Kyrie Irving has decided to go to Brooklyn Nets instead of the New York Knicks. According to unnamed officials, KD likes Manhattan more than Brooklyn, but won’t join the Knicks without a friend (would you?).
Game 4 Friday night. It’s not a “must-win” game for the Dubs. But it’s a game they’d better not lose.