February 3, 2016 – Verizon Center, Washington, DC
Foreign, legendary gladiators from Oakland, California arrived under cover of a foggy, rainy night in DC, armed, under-armored, and locked in.
Within the confines of the Verizon Center, the local heroes prepared for battle, with the knowledge that the enemy they were about to engage was truly powerful, ruthless, and seemingly unstoppable. But they were going to fight nonetheless. What ensued was a battle worthy of the Colosseum. Fire was thrown. Hearts were torn. Heroes were born. Legends would rise.
My words are insufficient. Let’s allow words from Gladiator to take us through.
“At my signal, unleash hell.” – Maximus.
To Steve Kerr, and Steph Curry. Who knows what was instructed pregame by Kerr (probably nothing), but from the moment the ball was jumped, Steph Curry unleashed Hell. He emptied full quivers of flaming arrows on the Wizards, from extreme distances and under duress, with spectacular and jaw-dropping precision and accuracy. By the end of the first quarter, Curry had made 9 of 10 shots, 7 of 8 threes, and scored 25 points. The Wizards as a team had 28.
“Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?” – Maximus
To this play, because this is the legend the fans came to see, here in DC, and everywhere:
“Three weeks from now, I will be harvesting my crops. Imagine where you will be, and it will be so. Hold the line! Stay with me! If you find yourself alone, riding in the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium, and you’re already dead!” – Maximus
— Bullets Forever (@BulletsForever) February 4, 2016
To Bradley Beal, who wore his clear Gladiator mask, and held firm in the face of the Warriors first half onslaught. While the Warriors rained fire, Beal brought the Hammer:
He attacked the basket relentlessly, again:
Beal wasn’t spectacular on the night. He would finish with a solid 18 points on 8/17 shooting. But he was tough, and aggressive, and his early exploits (12 first half points in 14 minutes) played a huge role in preventing the Warriors deadly early offensive from turning into a Wednesday night massacre. At half time, the Warriors led 74-60. Without Beal, it could’ve been much worse.
Quintus: “People should know when they are conquered.”
Maximus: “Would you, Quintus? Would I?”
To the Washington Wizards 3rd quarter. Changing tactics, and resorting to an active and energized defensive, DC turned the tide of the battle in the 3rd quarter. The Wizards locked the Warriors offense in chains, holding them to 33% shooting for the quarter, and generating 11 fast break points as a result. This Otto Porter steal and dunk got things started:
At one point, the Wizards cut the Warriors lead to two. Hope was alive. If the Wizards were already conquered, they did not show it.
“Ultimately, we’re all dead men. Sadly, we cannot choose how but, what we can decide is how we meet that end, in order that we are remembered, as men.” – Proximo
To John Mother F’n Wall. Win or loss, John Wall put on a truly remarkable, heroic performance. Ultimately, the Wizards were dead men, and John Wall with them. But Wall refused to be outdone, matching Curry play for play in a truly memorable performance. 41 points. 10 assists. 17/25 shooting. He led his men, through attack…
And carried his men with him:
Wall fought Curry valiantly, for the victory, and for his city. With the crowd in flux, Wall made play after play, and screamed to the fans time after time. His fight for his city was worthy of legends, and though it ended in defeat, with his shoulders shrugged and his head down, let us not forget what he gave us.
Last night on the battlefield, he gave us his heart, he gave us his soul, and he gave us hope.
“Listen to me. Learn from me. I was not the best because I killed quickly. I was the best because the crowd loved me. Win the crowd and you will win your freedom.” – Proximo
To the crowd at the Verizon Center, which could be captured completely in this picture:
This was not just a crowd made up of Wizards fans, and Warriors fans. This was a crowd made up of Wizards AND Warriors fans…As in, individual people who were rooting simultaneously for BOTH the Wizards and the Warriors. Steph Curry would hit a three, and basically the whole crowd would erupt. John Wall would make a play, and basically the whole crowd would erupt. Such is life across the nation for teams facing the Warriors this season. They have won the crowds. It’s like home court, every night.
Commodus: “Your fame is well deserved, Spaniard. I don’t think there’s ever been a gladiator to match you. As for this young man, he insists you are Hector reborn. Or was it Hercules? Why doesn’t the hero reveal himself and tell us all your real name? You do have a name.”
Maximus: “My name is Gladiator.”
To Steph Curry. 51 points on 28 shots. 19/28 shooting. 11/16 from three point range. His fame is well deserved. We have never seen anything like him. There’s a reason the Warriors have won the crowd. His is Stephen Wardell Curry.
Proximo: “Can any of them fight? I’ve got a match coming up.”
Slave Trader: “Some are good for fighting, others for dying. You need both, I think.”
To the Golden State Warriors roster. This is a star-studded team, but this is not a team built on just stars. The overall chemistry and unselfishness of the Warriors, and the way every player fits a role to perfection is the true essence of their greatness. Yes, Curry had 51. But he is not why they won the game. They won the game because Klay Thompson added 24. Because Draymond Green had another triple double, with 12 points, 12 assists, and 10 boards. Because their starting center has no trouble playing just 18 minutes and scoring 2 points. Because Andre Iguodala still comes off the bench, after winning Finals MVP. Because Shaun Livingston can be the guy to end the Wizards surge, instead of Curry. Because they have everything you need to be great.
“Shadows and dust.” – Proximo
To this John Wall foul. Because the only thing Wall actually touched here was shadows and dust. It was a huge call, putting Wall in foul trouble during a crucial push.
“The frost, it sometimes makes the blade stick.”
To the Wizards seizing opportunities (I’m looking at you Nene). The Wizards fought valiantly, but at crucial moments, they simply couldn’t unsheathe the plays they needed. Nene missed a number of free throws and lay-ups, and dropped some passes that led to turnovers during the Wizards 3rd quarter push. Late in the fourth quarter, Otto Porter couldn’t finish a lay-up on one end, which led to a Golden State three on the other end.
“Those giraffes you sold me, they won’t mate. They just walk around, eating, and not mating. You sold me… queer giraffes. I want my money back.” -Proximo
To Alan Anderson, who still hasn’t worn a Wizards jersey this season. And to Kelly Oubre Jr., who seems to take advantage of every opportunity he’s given, but the coach’s continue to struggle to find him opportunities with a healthy roster. They know that would never happen in a place like San Antonio right? (see: Simmons, Jonathan and Anderson, Kyle, and Marjanovic, Bojan). Find the kid some minutes!
“Five thousand of my men are out there in the freezing mud. Three thousand of them are bloodied and cleaved. Two thousand will never leave this place. I will not believe that they fought and died for nothing.” -Maximus
To Don Newman, who said post game that if the team plays like they did against Golden State, they can be really good. He’s right. They shot 51% as a team. They scored 121 points. They won the turnover battle 18-14. They had 26 team assists. They played hard. They played with effort and energy. Their best players were attacking, confident, and aggressive. Hopefully, they can use this loss as a turning point. They played well enough to win, on most nights, vs. most opponents.
But last night was not most opponents. Last night was legends. Last night was an empire. And the Warriors empire is not so easy to conquer.