Zapruder of my Soul
I have so many complicated feelings about that Nuggets/Sonics game that it will take a crew of armed men to sort them out. First, I watched most of it on Stat Tracker, even though I was right by the television. Such is the allure of Discovery Channel's "Health Care and the Pyramids" program, and my utter basketball fatigue at this point. Also, I didn't particularly feel like seeing the Nuggets lose to the Sonics (if they were going to), since I badly need them in this year's playoffs.
Then I noticed that I was watching Durant's best, most brazen game as a pro. . . from through the veil of a one-dimensional interface. I turned it on in time to see the second miracle shot, which made sense only if you figure his arms put him about three feet closer to the basket than someone with less outlandish proportions.
But the real reason I needed this game: My fantasy team's future came down to it. I have a lovable team of, well, fuck-ups who shouldn't win you anything. Nash and Boozer are cool, but from there it's Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, and Horford, Outlaw, Garcia, Crawford. You get the picture. My team had devolved into an excuse to follow players whose stat lines I find aesthetically pleasing, all this since I was summarily mocked for swapping Paul/Chandler for Johnson/Smith, and earlier getting fleeced by the assurances of one Tom Ziller—sure, Salmons will still productive once Artest is back, making Salmons/Horford for Rudy Gay perfectly fair. I was adrift.
Yet somehow, I ended up in the semi-finals, against a real powerhouse. I jumped out to an early lead, the gap closed, and then by last night, it was close. My team played horribly, but my enemy's Brad Miller sat out. So it came down to field goal percentage, with me up .002%. I had Garcia and J.R. Smith, and was hoping they wouldn't do too much damage. My opponent was looking to a resurgent Elton Brand and Linas Kleiza, who irks me.
What happened next is the stuff of either fate, conspiracy theories, or the outright absurdity of fantasy sports. I only found out the full story after the fact; I clicked away from the Sonics game before it had actually ended, since my girl was not about to miss the beginning of John Adams. But according to my esteemed foe, here's the perfect storm that sent my bunch of holy fools into the finals:
-Garcia is shooting terribly, but then leaves the game with an injury
-Brand is tearing it up; the Clippers stop going to him, then Al Thornton starts chucking away every time he touches the ball
So it all comes down to J.R., who has played very little, and Kleiza. I'll let the message board take over here:
Double overtime, 20 seconds left, the Sonics are up 5. I am trailing the feelings 5-4 with the key statistic being FG% where I am behind .002 percent. The ball is inbounded to J.R. Smith who takes a three and misses badly. I am now down .001% Fine I say, look, I lost, it was extraordinarily close, but so it goes. I can take the close loss. Meanwhile, though, the sonics take some free throws, Iverson scores a bucket and the sonics take some more free throws. There are now 4.6 seconds left and the Nuggets are down 6 points.
Camby gets the ball and who does he inbound to? J.R. Smith! Smith takes the ball languidly up the court, the rest of the teams are heading to the locker room, shaking hands etc.
If J.R. Smith just runs the clock out I wouldn't have said anything, but instead he takes the shot from just inside half court right on the sideline. The ball is up, about fifteen feet out of his hands! I'm going to tie, possibly win outright if the shot is worth .002, but then, out of nowhere, Earl Watson runs into J.R. Smith, with the ball 15 feet out of his hands and .08 seconds left. The ball falls harmlessly 12 feet short of the basket but the officials call the foul. Why did they call the foul? The game was over? Why did Watson foul him from 48 feet away when the game was over? Why did I lose by .001 percent because of Earl Fucking Watson? I was going for back to back titles! I would have won in the finals, but Earl fucking Watson decides to foul from 48 feet with the game already decided.
So I'm lurching in the championship, against a team whose key strategy was selling the farm for Shawn Marion at the trade deadline. How he got this far is a story for another day.
I have very mixed feelings about this. It's all too appropriate that Smith would somehow propel me onward. But he didn't do it with a clutch three, or the kind of scoring outburst that justifies having him on my team. In fact, he very nearly blew it for me. . . until my absolute least favorite player in the league swooped in and fed me a Jesus. Smith did something stupid, both fulfilling his being and betraying that maturity we've been hearing so much about. What Watson did is beyond the pale of stupid. It's barely even basketball.
Has a basketball game ever pulled me more ways at once? I doubt it. And I didn't even watch the damn thing.
(P.S. If anyone has video I can embed, holler.)