The Portland Trail Blazers have an in-arena promotional game in which two people sit on a pair of souped-up exercise bikes and start pedaling. The bikes track the number of calories they burn, and the person who burns the most calories wins the bike. The Jumbotron even catches a glimpse of these poor people, heaving away uncomfortably, chasing a stationary bike they never knew they wanted until now. This is a somewhat inhuman exercise, especially when the promo man announces how many calories the contestants burned. An arena full of people being privy to the intimacies of a person's inner body always makes my stomach turn.
I mention this to evoke the Portland Trail Blazers' square-off against the Golden State Warriors. One of the NBA's most ordinary teams this year, putting up a good offense and a shitty defense, just trying to scrape by in a thoroughly administrative year and figure out who they should keep and who they should trade for second-round picks, forced to run on the Warriors' shit-hot-speeding-treadmill lineups, electrodes attached to every part of their body, judgmental doctors taking notes on respiratory function, while an arena full of people either halfheartedly cheers for your few bright spots or actively cheers for the treadmill. The Blazers do what they can, sure, but you can't beat the treadmill. The treadmill always wins! The best you can hope for is the treadmill breaking down for a night after being used in four stress tests in five nights at other clinics. Since that metaphor was total nonsense, you can see that there is nothing you can do. Just run on the treadmill as long as you can, until you collapse.
The Blazers looked, at first, as if they were going to run for a minute or so and then vomit and cry. The Warriors scored a whopping 38 points in the first quarter. You could count the number of non-optimal shots they managed to get up on one hand. It was bleak, and scary, and bad. But, as the game went on, I wouldn't say the Blazers really took it to them, but they did manage to make something respectable out of the rest of the contest. The bench, in particular, made some decent offense in the second, while Harrison Barnes was swept away by a kind of madness and went hunting for his own offense.
Damian Lillard, whose on-court relationship with Stephen Curry has a faint Mozart-Salieri vibe*—watch him get caught on a pick and faintly trail just a little bit behind a streaking comet, like a cyclist trying to ride in another rider's wind tunnel—took it to the Warriors all night, making a valiant effort to, if not heave the team onto his back and muscle them into a victory, at least be able to throw up his hands and yell, "Well, it wasn't my fault!" and feel at least a little justified. Forty points altogether on a variety of shots, including some really very difficult 3-pointers. It was an essentially noble effort, marred only by his defense against Curry (picks!) opening up space and some unfortunate matchups against Draymond Green. (His post game isn't so bad if you give him several hams' worth of weight and a handful of inches and wingspan.) He also managed to block Steph at the rim at one point, too. Small victories.
Speaking of Draymond, he notched his fourth triple-double in the last five games. The Warriors' early outright dominance was fueled by his playmaking out of dribble-handoffs at the elbow. Watching him make quick decisions with the ball in his hands midcourt in transition is sort of breathtaking. I can't think of another player who makes so many assist chances for himself (7.4 APG this year!) without doing anything but observing the shape of his opponents in transition and quickly deciding to drive or dish. It's a subtle genius I can't imagine anyone else in the league replicating. Watching Al-Farouq Aminu get the ball in transition at one point was almost depressing in comparison.
Klay Thompson scored 36 points. It didn't make me feel anything. Klay is a floating void. The Blazers, consumed with Curry paranoia, couldn't follow him around screens at all. Brandon Rush, the Warriors' lost man, was also very frequently extremely open, and scored 20 points.
All in all, not bad! All the Blazers need to do to compete is get massive upgrades at center and wing, and maybe if Lillard somehow got better, and also can they draft a few high upside players, and maybe if they could somehow inject Draymond Green's deepest emotional and spiritual essence into Aminu? The LOB is in sight, for sure.
— I watched Curry's much hyped warmup and, I gotta, say, I recommend it. It's not Carol good or anything—I was not breath-took by his frank depiction of sexual and emotional intimacy manifest in his 3-point shooting—but how often can you watch someone take and make legit 40-footers with a standard-looking shooting motion? He also does this post-up drill where he squats and then goes into a turnaround that looked really hard.
— The beans in the media room were really good. If you made those beans and you're reading this, keep doing you.
— The fourth was pretty much all bench. The scumbag Warriors may as well have reached into the crowd's pocket and taken their money. Disgusting.
— Lillard managed to stay with Steph all they way to the rim, and this is how he was rewarded. Life really is terrible on some level.
* F. Murray Abraham in a Lillard jersey and no undershirt. If anyone knows the man, could you make it happen, for me?