Here’s one that really hurts.
On May 2, 2015, I had been invited by my neighbor to watch Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao in the Fight of The Century. I was initially reticent as the Spurs game was near the same time. And it was Game 7, win or go home. Luckily, we were able to watch the game before the fight. Luckily, sort of...
Additionally, I had been able to watch Game 6 in person at the AT&T Center and really felt that was the night they were going to close it down and make the way toward the back-to-back. Of course, Pop spent much of the third quarter exercising his Hack-A-Jordan, taking the wind out of the sails of the players as well as the capacity crowd.
Game 7 was everything a basketball fan wants, tight to the end with the added drama of Chris Paul having a hamstring act up. But it was a nail-biter for those who live and die woth their San Antonio Spurs.
Despite his injury, he did this:
...and from another angle...
So, geometrically speaking, the likelihood of Paul, who is around 5’ 3” (I’m rounding down to the nearest Oompa Loompa) banking that shot over the 9 foot Tim Duncan (again, eyeballing it here) is just ludicrous.
And yet it happened.
But what if it hadn’t?
It is hard to imagine any team beating the 2015 Golden State Warriors. After all, they won 67 games in the regular season. But remember, these weren’t the Kevin Durant Death Star Warriors yet.
In fact, had the Spurs blocked CP3’s shot, they would have faced the Houston Rockets before meeting Golden State in the Western Conference Finals. The Rockets knocked out the Clippers, but it took 7 games. And the curse of Chris Paul was still a thing.
The Spurs could have (and would have) beat the Rockets. The Silver & Black definitely had a propensity for postseason play that eluded the Rockets.
And in the regular season, the Spurs bested the Warriors 2-1. That said, the first Spurs win was very early in the season. But the second win was near the end of the season when everybody was firing on all cylinders. So, in all reality, the Western Conference Finals could have been a toss up.
Beating the Warriors was still doable in 2015. Even in their Finals victory, they faced a battered Cleveland team.
In the same way the Spurs biggest series in 2014 was the first round against the Mavericks, 2015 would have been similar. Momentum would have kicked in against Houston and Golden State. And with LeBron and the Cavaliers down Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, it would have been 2007 all over again. Donyell Marshall, anyone?
The domino effect — the Warriors miss the Finals in 2015, lose in 2016 against the Cavaliers, don’t get KD, and slowly slip into being the NBA’s version of the early 90s Buffalo Bills.
Don’t get me wrong, Stephen Curry still becomes the greatest shooter in history, Klay Thompson and he still unstoppable.
But without Kevin Durant and without the injury laden 2015 Cavaliers, the Warriors do not build the powerhouse of solid players willing to play for pennies on the dollar. KD ends up in the Eastern Conference, Stephen Curry highlights All-Star Weekend every year in the three-point contest, and Draymond Green is just another big mouth with defense skills that earn him runner-up at the annual Kawhi Leonard awards.
A 2015 Spurs victory could have altered the trajectory of the rest of that decade.
If only Chris Paul had not made that shot.
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