#1 Warriors vs. #3 Trail Blazers- Warriors win 4-0
It took overtime in game four, but the Warriors have again proven to be too much for the Trail Blazers, and more to the point, for the entire Western Conference. They’ll have at least a week to rest up and get healthy before the Finals, and that has to be a luxury for a team that has become more than a little dinged up along the bumpy road that is the NBA playoffs. First DeMarcus Cousins went down in round one with a strained quad. Then Kevin Durant in round two. Neither have returned yet. In the West Finals it was Andre Igoudala who sat out the game four win out of caution, the lingering calf tenderness threatening to become something worse with the increased wear and tear of a starting role in Durant’s absence. For all of that, the Warriors could be considered the weakest version of themselves. War-torn and weary, they drag themselves back to the finals in an attempt to cement their legacy among the greatest teams ever assembled.
Except that’s not how they look. And that’s not how they’re playing.
They’ve gotten better each series. They dropped two games to the Clippers in round one as Durant struggled early. Then one game to an over-hyped Rockets team in the semis. Now, this inevitable-feeling sweep of the ascendant Trail Blazers, a team that has to be wondering how they can get over the hump following their third-straight sweep out of the playoffs. These Blazers have a good young core, but up against the Warriors, their exciting, young backcourt just looked like a pale imitation of the Splash Brothers. Damian Lillard just looked out of sorts, not ready for the sort of versatile perimeter defense that the Warriors have taken to new levels. To look quickly at the stats, you can make a solid argument that Lillard and C.J. McCollum have been pretty great in the playoffs. They rank third and fourth in points scored this postseason, respectively. But they are two of only three players in the top twenty scorers who have a negative plus/minus over the course of the playoffs. The other was also a high scoring eliminated guard. Boston’s Kyrie Irving.
But realistically, there just wasn’t anything that Portland’s backcourt could do to slow down the champs. With every seemingly devastating injury, the Warriors look just a little closer to the team that won a championship and then seventy-three games in the regular season before acquiring Kevin Durant. It’s been like using a time machine that take you back to 2015, when Steph and Klay were the scariest thing imaginable to opposing defenses, and the pick and roll with Curry and Draymond Green was absolutely unstoppable.
Kevin Durant is an exceptionally valuable part of this Golden State team, but the simple truth is that they play the game differently when he’s on the court. He needs isolations to be successful, and they’ve adapted their game to incorporate his prodigious talents. But they might well be better without him against a good number of potential opponents. In game four, Steph Curry and Draymond Green showed just how efficient they could be, with BOTH finishing the night with triple-doubles. Two things about that.
- It’s never happened in NBA history. No two teammates have EVER had triple doubles in the same playoff game.
- It couldn’t and wouldn’t have happened with K.D. on the floor.
The depth of this Warriors team is simply extraordinary. They’ll sit, rest and wait to see who wins the Eastern Conference Finals. But Kawhi Leonard or Giannis Antetokuonmpo, it probably doesn’t much matter. Because those superstars are the only players on either team who would crack the Warriors starting lineup.
Image Source: AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer