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Lakers-Warriors Is A Series Searching For A Story

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 10: LeBron James #6 and Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers look on during Game 5 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals of the 2023 NBA Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors on May 10, 2023 at Chase Center in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Because television exists largely to offer employment to PR and marketing people to keep them from vagrancy, narcotics-informing, and late-night telemarketing, the Golden State Warriors-Los Angeles Lakers series was billed as the Stephen Curry-LeBron James series, which should have been your first clue that it wouldn't be that at all.

Instead, we have been treated to the Anthony Davis Game, the Klay Thompson Game, the Dynasty Is Dead Game, the Lonnie Walker Game and the Draymond Green Game. And now, Game 6 is shaping up as the Kevon Looney's Elbow Game.

Looney, the eagerest beaver in the Golden State warren, inadvertently caught Davis in the side of the head with an elbow late in the third quarter, and Davis left a game already sliding the Warriors' way, and then left the court in a wheelchair, which inspired those who like the Davis Is Made Of Corn Chips narrative to a new round of, for lack of a better name, Davis Is Made Of Corn Chips. Looney's elbow was indeed inadvertent because not every deleterious act has a nefarious motive. Just most of them.

The Lakers were quick to say they think Davis has avoided a concussion, although as we all know from our reading, concussion symptoms come when they come, not just when the replay shows the impact for the fifth time. It is safe to say that everyone with a medical degree from Twitter University knows nothing, which means that The Series In Search Of A Narrative remains just that.

The Warriors handled Game 5 not because Davis got hurt, mind you. They won it because Green shaved seven years off his birth certificate, because Andrew Wiggins emerged from stasis, and because they chose not to foul the Lakers 25 times. They also won because Curry, who has struggled by his standards against the Lakers' defense, had enough burst in the fourth quarter to keep LeBron from getting any ideas. Only Curry can make 27 and eight seem ordinary, but it's his fault for putting the bar there to begin with, so shame be unto him. Point is, he is hitting less than 36 percent of his threes because he is forcing more, and since that number is seven percentage points below his career average he seems, well, ordinary.

But this has been a disjointed series from the start, mostly because it has been a war for pace and tone between two teams with radically different speed limits and height restrictions. If Heat-Knicks sounds like broken glass in a meatloaf sandwich, Lakers-Warriors looks like an art class in which the only tools are paint buckets and floor-length tarps. The margins have been equally disjointed: Lakers by five, Warriors by 29, Lakers by 30, Lakers by three, Warriors by 15. There is no unifying sense or Ikea-style narrative of this series in its totality, and neither team looks like a champion based on these five games.

But now you throw in the possibility of Davis missing Game 6, which is by no means beyond conjecture given the nature of the human head and the elbows that hate them, and the logical assumption—Lakers win at home because the Warriors lose on the road—gets tossed skidding from the bar face-to-asphalt. Is this an Austin Reaves game? A Gary Payton game? Heaven forfend, a Jordan Poole game? Or the one neither team has tried yet—the game where the best players are the best players. Frankly, the joy of watching the networks get massive ratings by disappointing the folks who come out to see the stars is well in keeping with this tournament so far. Plus, who doesn't like it when a pregame narrative never congeals at all? The idea that Warriors-Lakers would run its course in either direction with neither Curry nor James as the central figure is a delicious one, soaked in a schadenfreude reduction. Not because Curry or James at their best isn't a delightful night out, but just to consider the staff meeting where the executive producer is hauled upstairs by some loosely affiliated suit and yelled at for thinking that the two sure Hall of Famers wouldn't be the story line, and that Anthony Davis and his stridently browed head could be.

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