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Golden State Warriors’ dynasty appears to take one more step toward its end

LOS ANGELES — The raucous volume and exuberant hum running down and through the Los Angeles Lakers‘ home arena as the seconds ticked away was more than just the sound of its fans celebrating a 3-1 series lead.

It was also, for the Golden State Warriors, the discordant drone of its dynasty seeming to creak under the weight of its own past and a present struggling to carry it.

There was Klay Thompson missing key shot after key shot, his 3-of-11 shooting night a mark of weariness and struggle. There was Draymond Green throwing the ball away in a critical moment, his team down three points with just 5.1 seconds left on the clock. There was Steph Curry, the final hope, not able to get off even a final shot attempt off to try and keep the hope alive.

Moment after moment, as a riveting and gusty game played itself out, there were so many signs of a Warriors team looking like an older, slower, lesser version of the juggernaut that has dominated the NBA for almost a decade. 

Perhaps we should not write off the Warriors just yet. Perhaps memories of 2016, when Curry, Thompson and Green mounted a comeback from a 3-1 Western Conference finals deficit against the Oklahoma City Thunder, should stay our sense of finality. Perhaps they have more magic in that tank.

Perhaps.

But it did not seem that way Monday night, here at Crypto.com Arena, as the Warriors surrendered a 12-point lead, and then again in the fourth quarter gave up a 7-0 run to open the quarter and tie the score.

On this night, the Warriors looked the way they have off and on this season and this postseason: A version of their excellence, sure, of what we remember — only tired at the edges, weary in stretches they once dominated, and wanting when it mattered most.

The idea of two aged prizefighters duking it out one last time can be a tired cliche. But it also feels more and more like an apt analogy for this series. And it is the Warriors who are coming out battered, bruised and bloodied.

LeBron James has also looked old, at times, in this series. But it’s the Warriors who seem hobbled by something having shifted — having passed — as they struggle to extend the life of their dynasty. 

LeBron was able to muster 27 points, 9 boards and 6 assists, willing himself closer to the heights we’ve seen him achieve before, and he had the added benefit of the kind of help the Warriors’ trio neither received nor delivered. 

Anthony Davis went for 23 and 15 and played exceptional defense yet again. Austin Reeves continued to impress with 21. Lonnie Walker IV, of all people, dropped 15 points — all in the fourth quarter.

It was a different story for Golden State. Their flashes of promise were punctuated by the now expected turnovers, but also missed layups and floaters from Curry, the kind that made those used to the surety of his success shake their heads in disbelief. There were also the forced threes from Thompson, and the poor decision making from Green.

It was like watching the Warriors of old, only slower, wearier and less sure. For every run, there was a letdown. For every spark of hope, a streak of age.

Even their boxscores had the mark of exhaustion meets desire: Steph was an awful 12 of 30 on an equally problematic 3 of 14 from deep. Thompson was 3 of 11. Green’s line was 8-10-7, but he, too, seemed a step slower, a bit less able. 

This series is not over. A win in Golden State on Wednesday would shift a sliver of momentum back to Golden State, and we have seen before what even that can ignite in this Warriors team.

Yet the Warriors present seems daunting, and its future so uncertain. 

Despite being one of the cornerstones of the dynasty, Green’s continuation in Golden State after this season remains up in the air. So does whether the architect of this run, president of basketball operation Bob Myers, will come back. His contract is up and there is talk he may move on if the Warriors do not pay him markedly more money, something sources believe is a very real possibility.

Winning tends to cure so many of these things. But losing can often have the opposite effect, which is why so much hinges on the outcome of this series. Imagine the notion of the Warriors, 11 months removed of an unexpected championship, not even making it out of the second round.

Dynasties end. Time, sooner or later, comes for everyone and everything. 

One of two things is going to happen over the next six days. Either the Warriors will push back that time encroachment yet again by reclaiming their former form in another epic comeback, or the Lakers will win one more game, and with it we’ll witness the arrival of the end of Golden State’s run.



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