Warriors reach the NBA Finals without Splash Brothers superpowers of the past, making it all the more impressive


Warriors reach the NBA Finals without Splash Brothers superpowers of the past, making it all the more impressive

In November 2018, in the midst of a four-game losing streak and a week after Draymond Green and Kevin Durant’s infamous touchline blowout, Steve Kerr told reporters that his Golden State Warriors were finally getting a taste of “the real” NBA. “

“We’ve had such an adorable existence for the past four seasons,” Kerr added. “This is the toughest track we’ve ever been to. This is the real NBA. We haven’t been in the real NBA for the past few years. We were in that dream. And now we’re facing real adversity and we have to get out of it ourselves.”

Kerr’s argument was fair enough. The last threads of the Kevin Durant era were fraying. Injuries surfaced. Maybe the fairytale part of the story was over. But this Warriors team, despite some “adversities”, was still a great team of all time. They were certainly the best team in the league and the clear favorite to win it all.

That was never the case this season. I don’t care what the odds have said at different times, or even what they will say to open the finals, whether against Boston or Miami. And yet here they are, in their sixth final in the last eight years. for the warriors, This is the real-life NBA, where an imperfect team must carve out advantages on — or at least closer to — the edges because Durant is gone and the Splash Brother superpowers of the past have been dismantled and recycled into actual human parts.

That only makes this achievement even more impressive.

You want adversity? Let’s start with Curry, who had by far the worst regular shooting season of his career before missing the last three weeks with a sprained ankle ligament.

How about Draymond Green, who missed two months from early January through mid-March with a bad disc in his back, a period that made the Warriors look like a positively mediocre team.

Klay Thompson missed more than two calendar years with a cruciate ligament tear and an Achilles tendon tear and on his return shot 38.5 percent from 3 of 32 regular-season games, which, like Curry, is a career-low tally.

These guys aren’t the players they used to be, or at least they weren’t this season. That’s not to say they aren’t still great. All of this is relative to the incredibly high standard they have set. Curry was second-team All-NBA. Green would have been Defensive Player of the Year if he hadn’t been injured. But they’re not the guys they were in the first few chapters of Dynasty.

These guys from 2014-19 were otherworldly. These guys could erase all sins previously committed with a five-minute, 3-point atomic stretch that conjures up images of Michael J. Fox transforming into the wolf.

You’re still a threat, every night one of those nights. Thompson did it Thursday, hitting eight 3s en route to 32 points. But you can no longer rely on that. The Warriors were the 16th offense in the league this season.

In those first two postseason runs with Durant on board, the Warriors outperformed their opponents with a total of 23.6 points per 100 possessions. This Warriors team entered Friday’s Game 5 with a net rating of plus 4.8 against a Denver team missing their second- and third-best players and a Grizzlies team that has Ja Morant for the last three Games of the series did not have .

Thompson is nowhere near the defenseman nor the consistent shooter that he was from injuries. Curry is 34 years old. Gone are the days when Golden State challenged a borderline Hall of Famer in Andre Iguodala, at the peak of his defensive and playing skills, as a sixth man. This version of Iggy is a shell of his former self and has not been played since Game 3 of Round 1.

You hear people talk about “championship DNA” and this is what it looks like; A fireball launcher that continues to win at elite level after dropping from 100mph on the radar gun to 94 or 95 which is still great but it’s not 100.

I’m not necessarily saying that it’s easy to win when three of history’s greatest shooters are firing shots from across the building, or when an all-time defense can and often does choke the life out of opponents almost on call, but it certainly is not the challenge this team has faced this season when the margin for error has been smaller than at any point in previous playoff runs.

The Warriors were and still are a formidable team, but this team had to find other, less spectacular ways to win. Curry has compensated for his 3-point struggles by penetrating and finishing the paint with more than a 60 percent clip from 3ft to 10ft in the playoffs, by far the best number of his career. Kevon Looney had 22 rebounds in Game 6 against Memphis and 18 boards in Game 5 against Dallas. Jordan Poole is shooting 53 percent through the first three playoff series of his career.

And what could we say about Andrew Wiggins? This is a guy who was considered one of the worst contracts in the league in Minnesota, and he’s become an All-Star for these Warriors, thriving as a secondary scorer and taking over for Thompson as a designated defender against elite perimeter scorers.

How to win without superpowers. Everyone joins in. That includes the front office, who traded in for Wiggins and made some key signings. They found a gem in Gary Payton II. Resisting the urge to trade in Poole or Jonathan Kuminga or even a Moses Moody or James Wiseman, they built their bridge to the next era without sacrificing the championship potential of the current core. At the end of the day, albeit with less fireworks, the Warriors are putting up a postseason offensive rating that matches the Durant years.

The Warriors need four more wins for a fourth championship in the Kerr era, and indeed, this is an organization that expects to win it all. If they lose in the finals, they will not consider this season a success. But from the outside, it’s impossible not to equate this performance with the best of this era, regardless of how this next series plays out.

With Durant leaving and Thompson coming back super rusty and Curry and Green starting to show signs of aging, it looked to me at least like the Warriors needed a big trade to get back into the championship talk. How dare I question a team featuring Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, let alone one coached by Steve Kerr? For years, this team’s fascinating prowess largely eclipsed its dark, uncompromising, proud and ambitious nature, but now those traits are more evident and needed than ever. These guys are only winners. Plain and simple. And they’re not done yet.

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