NATIVIDAD: For Warriors fans, Christmas miracles do come true
Like a lot of sports fans who scanned through this year’s NBA Christmas day lineup, in seeing the Golden State Warriors versus the Houston Rockets on the bill I easily dismissed the matchup as a game not befitting the season of giving… For local dubs fans at least.
Here you had a depleted Warriors team in last place (7-24), with their stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson sidelined by injuries for most likely the entire season. Power forward Draymond Green was also just coming off of an injury to his heel. To your casual basketball fan the rest of the team, aside from all-star guard D’Angelo Russell, might as well have been from your local high school varsity team. Meaning, for the most part, they were unknowns to your typical national sports audience.
And then you had the Rockets squad (21-9) brooding into town with the bearded wonder James Harden, a man that on any given night could drop 50-plus points on an opposing team when he felt like it, with new addition Russell Westbrook, AKA Mr. Triple Double, by his side. Insert a plethora of solid role players and standouts and you’ve got a team currently in the upper-echelon of the conference; an entertaining title contender.
This was not going to be the rematch of last year’s nail-biting Western Conference finals. It was not going to live up to the rivalry between the two teams that ran so deep that Houston Rockets announcers blanked out the mere mention of Curry in Drake songs played in their arena.
This game was going to be a wash, a slaughter, a lopsided atrocity of a matchup akin to David and Goliath. So much so that NBA players like former Sacramento Kings point guard, now Washington Wizards guard, Isaiah Thomas took to Twitter to let the masses know that “This game shoulda been on NBAtv lol.”
Not fit for prime time? Boy were we wrong.
Because once again, “David” won and in emphatic fashion. Of the first three televised games of the day, it was definitely the most entertaining as both teams battled back and forth for the lead to start the game. Harden, though, wasn’t having it and went off in the second quarter draining a series of deep three point shots over several Warriors defenders (he would finish netting six from beyond the arc), prompting the television announcer to proclaim the bearded one was “Hotter than fish grease!” which didn’t quite make sense because that is an old southern saying referring to someone who is extremely pissed off… But I digress.
While the Warriors did fall behind by double digits in the second quarter, it still felt like the game could go either way. And it did.
Down 11 with less than five minutes left in the half, the dubs made a run starting with a slam down the lane from Green. Guard Damion Lee would follow that with an energetic put back, two points in a career night for him as he finished with a team high 22 points. Russell would swivel down the lane to drain a runner soon after, and the dubs would go into the second half down by just four points.
The final two quarters seemed as though the Warriors went on run after run led by vintage Draymond Green running the ball up court and converting on coast to coast drives and three point plays that lifted not only the fans at the Chase Center up off there seats, but his fellow teammates with the energy and heart and soul he has been known to give the team throughout the years.
To the surprise of dubs fans, Green even hit a couple three pointers, and gave them their first lead of the second half with just five minutes left in the third quarter. Point guard Ky Bowman ended the quarter with a running buzzer beater to put the dubs up by five going into the fourth, a momentum changer that helped push the lead to further heights. It seemed as though it was just their night, with nearly four players scoring 20 points and a fifth player, former Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein, reaching double figures as well.
With less than four minutes left in the game forward Glenn Robinson III hit a three to the delight of the crowd giving the Warriors a surprising 111-99 lead. Green would hit another three with less than two minutes left on the clock to put them up by 16 and the Chase Center was abuzz with holiday spirit.
“Hello Saint Nick. Merry Christmas Golden State!” the announcer could be heard yelling emphatically. Thomas, who had derided the game earlier in the day sent out a second tweet seemingly attempting to correct himself saying “(Nevermind) lol.”
In all of the hoopla, audiences at home could see injured all-stars Thompson and Curry in their fitted suits on the sidelines gleefully cheering on their teammates the way the team is known for celebrating each other.
It was the game that just kept giving… Or is it the gift? For Warriors fans it seemed like a present from old Saint Nick himself. A game that they all knew had no significant value for their team in the western conference standings. Yet it felt like they were back to the old celebratory dubs of yore, for the first time in a long time.
They say kicking a man while they are down is frowned upon. After a stellar five-year run that has led to five finals appearances and three championships, this year’s Warriors squad has been dragged and trolled by basketball fans from different teams that have eagerly waited for their eventual demise.
Sufficed to say, they’ve stayed down from all the kicking.
The bandwagon Warriors fans have moved on to the Lakers or the Clippers, and true dubs supporters have shown their true colors. The players and their fans still root for this team that has gone from the top to the bottom of the standings in just one year.
But it’s wins like this that keep things in perspective. Anything in this crazy sports world can happen and as we saw on Christmas day, it often does.
The Warriors could be playing the long game when it comes to their franchise, and for their fans that could mean a bigger gift in the coming years… Maybe old Saint Nick gifts them Milwaukee Bucks MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2021 free agency? The way this team has played this year, though, that would be nothing short of a miracle.
But what the heck, miracles do come true.
Ivan Natividad is a columnist who contributes to The Union regularly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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