Are the Golden State Warriors for real? Or were they just lucky? They probably did not expect to be with their backs against the wall and on the brink of elimination at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The San Antonio Spurs’ main rivals have had a bumpy postseason after a historically impressive regular season, and some of that aura of invincibility is beginning to wear off.
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Questions arose from skeptics regarding the team’s championship run, because the opposition all suffered some kind of injury setback, and therefore could not play to their full capabilities.
The first round matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans featured a hobbled starting point guard in Jrue Holiday, coming off of a stress fracture in his right tibia. Holiday missed one game, and played about 15 minutes per game the rest of the way.
Despite monstrous numbers from Anthony Davis, the Warriors would go on to sweep this series 4-0.
Their conference semifinals was against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies starting point guard Mike Conley missed Game 1 because of a facial fracture suffered in the previous series, and starting forward Tony Allen suffered a sore left hamstring, reducing his playing time to just five minutes total between Games 4 and 5.
The Warriors would go on to win that series 4-2.
The Western Conference Finals was against the Houston Rockets. The Rockets played without Patrick Beverley, arguably their best and most annoying perimeter defender, and without backup center Donatas Motiejunas. Dwight Howard tried playing through a torn MCL and torn meniscus, but he was not effective enough to do any damage.
The Warriors won the series 4-1.
In the NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers were the last obstacle to a championship. The Cavaliers were without Kyrie Irving, who suffered a fractured patella in Game 1, and Kevin Love, due to shoulder surgery.
The Warriors would win the championship 4-2 on their home floor.
Winning a championship is not an easy task, regardless of health. Most teams are banged up late in the season, but that didn’t stop the critics from gunning for the Warriors. Coach Doc Rivers spoke with Grantland and maintained that it takes luck to win, specifically referring to Golden States opponents.
You need luck in the West,” he says. “Look at Golden State. They didn’t have to play us or the Spurs. But that’s also a lesson for us: When you have a chance to close, you have to do it.
Wherever the criticisms originated, the Warriors took exception and set out to prove this year that they are champions to be respected, and silence their critics in the process.
May 24, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) shoots the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the third quarter in game four of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The Warriors started the 2015-16 season off hot, capping the season off with only 2 losses at home, and an overall record of 73-9. It was the most wins since the 1996 Chicago Bulls, and the most ever in a season.
Now that the Warriors proved they could complete a record-breaking follow-up regular season, they must finish the job, or the entire season will be a complete failure. Critics will surface from every direction, and the narrative of being a one and done team will ring loudly in NBA circles.
The Bulls showed complete dominance in 1996 en route to their 4th championship, but the Warriors are showing vulnerability. After a tough series against the underdog Portland Trailblazers, they now face elimination against a fully healthy Oklahoma City Thunder team that is out to prove they are really the best in the west.
The Warriors look a bit more fragile than last year, sort of how their opponents looked against them. The Thunder have been able to counter and outwork everything the Warriors have tried so far in the Western Conference Finals. Unless they win 3 consecutive games, the season they worked so hard to win so many games will come crashing down harder than anyone imagined, and their critics will be there immediately to watch. If they do manage to pull off a miracle run, they are back in the finals, likely against a healthy Cavaliers team, much stronger and more prepared than last year.
Winning it all is not easy. After the Warriors lost Game 4, Draymond Green received a text message from Kobe Bryant for a little encouragement in a few simple words:
If making history was easy, why bother?
Draymond Green responded that he is up for the challenge, but the only response that really matters is the one that is displayed on the court. So they have one more opportunity to answer the question.
Are the Warriors for real? Or were they just lucky?
San Antonio certainly would have wanted a chance to play them in the Western Conference Finals to put that question to the test. Now the Thunder are the team very close to exposing some weaknesses from the Warriors.