The elegance of the word has been lost for a generation thanks in large part to Brad Nowell, who adopted it to name his band in 1988. Since their self-titled album was released in 1996, just two months after Nowell's tragic death, the word sublime now conjures for me images of Heina and her Sancho -- instead of its literal definition.
Simply defined, sublime means something very beautiful or good. Something that causes strong feelings of admiration or wonder. But it also means to convert into something of higher worth, i.e. passing from good to great.
In many ways it was the perfect name for the band. Though fleeting, the music the group created was genius. It was a soothing, almost peaceful reggae rhythm mixed with lyrics that were anything but. The words were raw and violent, but yet so easy to sing along to. The best stanzas were a simultaneous injection of joy, adrenaline and even fear.
That symbiotic contradiction best describes the Spurs offensive performance in the first half of Game 3 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat on Tuesday night. It was a beautiful display of precision and anger. Joy and violence. Peaceful destruction.
LeBron James served his revenge in Game 2 with a virtuoso performance, but Kawhi Leonard answered in spectacular fashion on Tuesday. He posted a career high 29 points and teamed with suddenly-effective slasher Danny Green for 44 points -- matching the point total from James and Dwyane Wade. Their performance was timely and welcomed by Spurs fans, but they were only two of the players involved in the tidal wave that covered Miami.
Gregg Popovich started Boris Diaw in place of Tiago Splitter in hopes of getting better ball movement early in the game. The move paid off as the Spurs exploded for 41 points in the first quarter and 71 in the first half en route to an NBA Finals record 75.8% field goal percentage through the first two quarters.
It was a jaw dropping onslaught that silenced the crowd and baffled the experts, many of whom expected to Heat to roll in the comfortable confines of their home court. And based on the Heat's 8-0 record at home during the playoffs, it's hard to find fault in those expectations. But even wise men like Stephen A. Smith and DJ Khaled must have been rendered speechless, which is not an easy task.
What's important for the experts-and even peanut gallery guys like me-to remember is that these Spurs are not comprised of fragile psyches and thin skins. For all the talk of the devastation felt following Game 6 of last year's Finals many forget that the Spurs damn near rebounded to win Game 7.
Then this season they matter-of-factly posted the best record in the NBA when many others would have crumbled under the weight of what might have been. So to assume that the Spurs were done because they let Game 2 slip away on Sunday night ignores the history and backbone of this team.
Now the narrative shifts again as Game 4 looms. We'll try to wrap our minds around the events of Game 3 to draw some sort of logical conclusion as to the likely outcome on Thursday night but the fact is none of us has a clue. Rick Carlisle nailed it when he said that in a playoffs series each win feels like you can never lose and each loss feels like you'll never win again.
But it's also folly to suggest that this series is just like last years Finals. Sure, it's a 2-1 Spurs lead after three games but that's where the similarities end. The Spurs have home court advantage and the only definitive win thus far. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green perhaps have found their confidence at just the right time and the number of players making a positive contribution for the Heat can be counted on one hand. And if that's not enough to convince skeptics that this year is indeed different, I have one arrow left in my quiver that consists of four words: Manu Ginobili.
So on to Thursday we go. This series will have many more ebbs and flows, more fits and starts. The Heat will likely be a different team during Game 4 and the Spurs will presumably descend from their orbit. These are the two best teams in the world battling for a foothold so Thursday's game-- and the series overall-- is still very much in doubt. And we are lucky enough to get to watch every second.
Erik Spoelstra will make adjustments and Gregg Popovich will counter. LeBron James will bring his best and fight to the very end while Tim Duncan brings his sack lunch, fighting back just as hard. It will be another few days of drama and suspense weaved into the thrill of sport and tribalistic pride.
But for now I just want to take a few minutes and bask in the sublime.