Thank goodness for Brandon Crawford.
It was the warm vibe of the two-time World Series champ shortstop that prevented me from greatly exaggerating the reports of the Golden State Warriors’ death.
I was all set to Jock Blog on the 2022-23 Warriors last week. And I was about to stick a fork in ‘em.
Between Steph Curry’s injury woes, Andrew Wiggins’ prolonged absence, Jordan Poole’s maddening inconsistency, and a bench that just didn’t quite have enough strength in its numbers, the Jock Blog was ready to say, with 23 games left:
It just ain’t their year, kids.
And the Jock Blog was going to point out that there is no crime in not winning the championship every year. And the Jock Blog was going to point out how lucky we are that Steph and Klay and Draymond and the boys had won the whole enchilada just last June, in Boston no less, and that four gosh darn titles is pretty gosh darn historically awesome, as I was just saying to my good friends Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott.
But still . . . it just ain’t their year, kids.
Then we went to Scottsdale Stadium and interviewed Giants for three days and I got all springtime-y and felt the love and wanted to pen an ode to Brandon Crawford, the last of the championship lions.
So I never got around to sticking a fork in the Warriors.
And then the Warriors opened their homestead at Chase Center last Friday with a thumping of the lowly Houston Rockets to get back to .500. OK, big whoop. I mean, Klay made 12 three-pointers and scored 42 points, which was nice. But, still. Come on.
And then the Warriors were down 10 to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the fourth quarter last Sunday and yep, the Dubs were going down. Back under .500. Except, they didn’t. Klay scored 32. Donte DiVincenzo went off down the stretch on both ends of the floor. Chase Center roared back to life, and the Warriors pulled it out, 109-104. One game over .500.
But the Dubs have spent way too much of this season “playing with their food”, as the scribes say. And when the always-pesky Portland Trail Blazers came into town Tuesday with their 71-point man, Dame Lillard, and built a 23-point lead on the Warriors, the frustration came bubbling back. Back to .500, surely. Back to the play-in bracket, if they’re lucky. Back to sticking that fork.
Except — the Warriors stiffened. Steve Kerr and his staff drew up a variety of playoff-level defensive looks to put Lillard in a box. The familiar rush of a third-quarter explosion shook Chase. The entire team clamped down on defense and executed so soundly on the offensive end, the Warriors dropped a 75-40 second half bomb on a stunned Portland squad.
How do we know the Warriors were serious this time? They only made 12 three-pointers *as a team* the entire game, for the love of 1989. They took the ball into the paint. Kevon Looney continued to rebound as if he were given a challenge on a “Squid Game” reboot. Six players scored in double figures. The Warriors won.
That’s three in a row. They’re two games over .500. They’ve never been three games over this year, as crazy as that sounds. And yet.
Somehow, the Warriors are the five seed in the Western Conference as I type this little screed. That’s bonkers. How do you go from dead to the five seed?
And this is the part where I remind you this little surge of life and pulse has all happened WITHOUT Steph Curry and Andrew Wiggins. And Curry will be back next week. And without Gary Payton II, who may be back by April. And without Andre Iguodala, who may just decide to suit up again when it matters.
Of course, of course, the prudent money says the mountain is too tall, the gas tank too empty after last June’s run, the injury bug too ever-present, the Western playoff matrix too balanced for the Warriors to somehow claw their way back to the NBA Finals.
Or . . . does it?
I dunno. Just sayin’.
The Clippers are in town tonight, the Pelicans tomorrow night.
They’re still selling popcorn at Chase Center. Grab some.
And thanks to Brandon Crawford, still picking ground balls and saving Jock Blogs.