It's never a pretty thing, watching the invincible become mortal. And so these days Golden State Warriors fans are challenging NBA analysts to fights in bars, and the team owner is getting into it with opposing fans at games, and, well, like we said. Not pretty.
It has, after all, been such a grand dream, seductive in the sense all grand dreams are seductive. You think it's never going to end, even though no dream in recorded history has ever not ended. That hasn't happened yet for the Warriors, but it's looking like it will.
This after the Warriors lost Game 1 of the Western Conference finals at home, where they lost just one game during their epic 73-win regular season, and then they went out to Oklahoma City and got embarrassed in a way no one imagined possible. The Thunder beat them like the noon crowd at the Y, once by 28 and once by 24. And now that OKC is up 3-1 in the series and looking as unstoppable as Golden State once looked, it's suddenly dawned on everyone that this Thunder team has two of the best five players in the world (Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook), and they're playing like two of the best five players in the world. And that makes them sort of, you know, formidable.
Even for an opponent that won 73 games and whose offense was such a masterpiece to watch Rembrandt could have painted it.
So, yes, Golden State people are losing it. They can't believe this team that looked so utterly unbeatable not only is down 3-1, but has been absolutely annihilated two times in a row. And so we have the spectacle of the Warriors owner getting into it with an obnoxious Thunder fan, and a Warriors fan challenging NBA analyst Charles Barkley to a fight because Barkley had the effrontery to pick the Thunder to win the series.
(An especially rash act considering Sir Charles once famously threw an obnoxious fan through a plate-glass window.)
The mossiest cliché in the book is the one that goes "This is why they play the games," but, well, this is why they play the games. They play the games because you never know when a Durant or a Westbrook is going to start playing like a Durant or a Westbrook. They play the games because you never know when a Steph Curry is going to suddenly begin looking mortal and weary after being so head-grabbing amazing for seven months. They play the games because there's no such thing as momentum in sports, a truism the Warriors must be clinging to right now the way a drowning man clings to a life preserver.
Because the way these playoffs have been going, they could easily come out tonight in the fortress that is their home court and obliterate OKC the way OKC obliterated them in Oklahoma. Just look at the East finals: After easily winning the first two games, the Cavaliers went up to Toronto and lost twice to a Raptors team that didn't look capable of sharing the same floor with them.
Then they came back to Cleveland last night -- and won by 38.
So, yeah. The dream hasn't ended yet for Golden State.
But the light of day isn't far off.