As Draymond Green nurses a sore body, Klay Thompson a fractured finger, Kevin Durant a broken rib, and Stephen Curry a sprained MCL, the rest of the league is rapidly catching up. The talking heads, always willing to go out on the furthest limb to get a rise out of the masses, are touting the Houston Rockets as the favorite. Hell, even the arguments about a loss in the first round without Steph is becoming more viable by the day. This is likely a strawman argument, myself spending too much time extrapolating the opinions of a select few and beating that bush down. But screw it, the Golden State Warriors aren’t the heavy, unrivaled champions of the NBA anymore, and this is setting up to perfection.
Down 2-1 against the Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015, 3-1 to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and losing to those same Cavs, the Warriors were always the team that seemed impenetrable before the game started. For the first time in four seasons, they may start the postseason and the Western Conference Finals not only not on their home court, but picked to lose. And this is with what you would assume is a healthy Core Four on the court with Andre Iguodala. Does that sound far-fetched?
That is precisely the reason why these Warriors are setting up their greatest statement runs through the league yet. There may be more in the future, when they’re older, more fatigued, and going up against even better teams. But for now, this is their road: a series against either the Thunder, Jazz, or Spurs, then a red-hot Portland Trail Blazers, one of the greatest regular season teams of all time in the Houston Rockets, then LeBron James at the end.
It’s hard to say nobody believes in them with a straight face. It’s not, however, noteworthy to say that the Warriors are going to be completely dialed in throughout this postseason. Remember the 73-9 regular season Warriors? The tenacity, the disgust, the upending of the entire league, and the open domination of anything in their path. These Warriors are more talented, they’re more mature, and they’ve handled the worst of all outcomes. They are ready for this. This is different now but the doubt and the suspicion has fueled them to their greatest plane, on the precipice of the single greatest season of all time.
Their backs are not against the wall yet. And the last time that happened, they reeled off three in a row against an in-their-prime KD and Russ, whom on pure talent far exceeds the James Harden and Chris Paul tandem. Durant shoulders the load for the Warriors now through the first round and perhaps even most of the second, if Steve Kerr and management have their way. This is a team that’s going to struggle, they may even lose a Game 1 at home. But they’ve done it all before, especially the bottoming. As they limp into the postseason for four potential series that will angrily cap a dynastic run, the Warriors are doubted. It isn’t be the first time, it definitely will not be the last. They’ve surprised us this far. And this time around, Steph and KD might finish off what they were just one game away from accomplishing last time. Now that’s perfection.