Yeah. 4 in the morning. Been here before. For other reasons to be sure. Greater gravity than a basketball game that didn't go as I had hoped. Still the impetus was profound. So it's to the keyboard in the dead of night to get this down. Soul cleansing with the magic of words...
One had to look very closely, carefully, thoughtfully, and with great precision, to see the tiny flaw in this diamond of a team this season. The good fortune we have felt as believers in The System that Pop and TFO have mined and fashioned from this franchise over the past 14 years has been our reward for such perspicacity.
Why do we endure this seemingly masochistic process of exposing the supposed fractures in something so stunning? The answer is, in a word: excellence; and there is a cost. It is a transitory state achieved by few in their domain, for good reason. It is highly subjective when viewed at the macro level (starting with the national sports media) while "blatantly" obvious to the student of the game (and this marvelous team in particular).
For excellence to exist there must be standards. In the NBA, the great dynasties have been the measure. Yet, a three-peat may no longer be the bar. Yes, champions will come and eventually go. They are, after all, mortal (though I'm holding out for you, Manu). I believe what OKC achieved last night (as Kerr and Miller thankfully alluded to) was a harbinger. For it's clear that had that team persisted in trying to out-quick, out-muscle, and out-smart the Spurs after Game 2, well, maybe we'd be looking at a Game 7 tomorrow.
Something curious happened in-series to the Thunder. Strange perhaps to the parrots of the Big Market Narrative; but not so unconscionable to those veterans of the Spurs organization, scattered far and wide across the league who know a fine gem-in-progress when they see it. Just as rules (records, too) are made to be broken, excellence exists to be emulated. Over the course of the past four seasons San Antonio had kept the lid on the former Sonics' resurgent roar, a challenge to former Spur intern and now GM Sam Presti. Via savvy drafts and trades (unloading former Spurs Assistant Coach, then Sonics Head Coach PJ Carlesimo in the process) OKC became the NBA's ascendant star. The slap-down they were handed in Game 2 of this series may just have been the penultimate PtR moment they required.
In the days and weeks to come we'll self-flagellate and second-guess our heroes: what happened to the vaunted bench, the Lego-legendary assemblage that had always stepped boldly and brashly into the breach; did Pop miss something he shouldn't have; we'll whine about the officiating (okay, I'll bite: that should have been a no-call on Gino/Harden as KL buried the 3); and of course the deeper questions like, was there an alpha-jerk moment, and inevitably, The Beard, Really, again? Alas, this is who we are. Social media being the black hole that it is, finding meaning is a bear. This is why we constantly fumble in darkness (not coincidentally, considering the hour of this penning) as we profess to see the light.
So. All well and good for the Thunder. But that's not why I'm still here, bleary-(not teary-) eyed hours later, hammering away. Nor is it about closure on the Spurs dream-like season that only a week ago (and even going back to the end of the RRT) I swore up and down to anyone here in the ATL, would rightfully end triumphantly hoisting the Larry O trophy.
Nah. I'm writing this as a kind of twisted celebration of how the perennial search for - and sometimes vicarious experience of - excellence, thanks to this mighty organization, win or heart-wrenchingly lose, sustains the soul of a city boy. For that, a few hours of sleep is well worth the cost.