“Fraud” and “choke” are overused as pawns in the strong take theater of sports and I’d rather be a reasonable person than get a few more clicks. At the same time, it might be worth looking at the dictionary definitions of those words because there’s a chance they could aptly be applied to the Golden State Warriors should they lose another game to the Houston Rockets.
Fraud (noun): a person or thing intended to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities.
Choke (verb): to become too tense or nervous to perform well.
Let’s take the second one first. Golden State choked in Game 4. That’s not up for debate. Twelve fourth-quarter points at home on 3-for-18 shooting is a textbook example. Game 5 wasn’t quite as bad but the result was the same. Steve Kerr’s side can’t seem to win a close game. When things get tough, they get tight and turn into the antithesis of the freewheeling, fun team they’ve been for years. The pressure seems to get to them.
Strange but arguably true.
Let’s imagine for a second that Chris Paul is healthy and Houston wins Game 7. What does that do to the ever-evolving legacy of this Golden State core as we head into the offseason?
The simple answer is that it makes things much more complicated. It’ll be four years as — far and away — the NBA’s best team but only two titles. It’ll be 2016 and 2018 combining to create a narrative that these regular-season lions repeatedly turn into lambs under the bright lights.
Perhaps poetically, all the things used to diss LeBron James will be used against the Warriors. The coming up short late. The title-chasing (looking at you, Kevin Durant). The empirical comparisons to other dynasties. The open questions about if this thing is entering the fractured twilight stage.
And if you think that’s not going to happen, you haven’t been breathing the acrid air of the take-o-sphere. I’m only bringing this up because I want you to be prepared for what will follow.
Of course, the Warriors aren’t frauds nor will they be should they lose this weekend. They are two-time champions with one of the most fearsome offensive attacks ever unleashed. Unsexy opinion alert: It’s damn hard to win a championship, even when you should.
Nevertheless, that ideal will persist.
Golden State can avoid all this chatter if they rally to beat Houston and the overmatched representative from the East. Paul’s hamstring quality will have a major say in if that happens. It’s time for the Warriors to come out and play or risk being turned from untouchable ideal to underachieving impostors in the court of public opinion.