Warriors Pursuit of Regular Season Greatness Led to Finals Collapse

The Golden State Warriors were transcendent all season long. They started the regular season off with a bang, winning 24 consecutive games, and rumbled on to a 73-9 regular season record. It seemed that this team didn’t flex their collective greatness unless they had. There were numerous times when teams like the Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, and Oklahoma City Thunder each had the Warriors on the ropes. The only thing that these teams were missing was someone like Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson. It only took one defensive stop or a turnover and they would go off on one of their explosive runs and miraculously win games they had no right to win. That’s what happens when you have two great players on a great team, you win games on your worse days. Having the first unanimous MVP, the runner-up for the Defensive Player of the Year, and several two-way players that can also score and take games over are also key ingredients to amassing the greatest regular season in NBA History.

The Warriors entered the playoffs as the clear favorite. In the first round they faced the Houston Rockets. It was a conference finals rematch from the season prior. Everything was going great in Game 1, until Curry twisted his ankle. Which just so happens to be the same ankle he had surgery on back in 2011. When he made his return 3 games later the unimaginable happened and he sprained his right knee. Now, not only is the Warriors organization panicking, but the Warriors fan base and the NBA as a whole. Not to worry though, as we all know by now, Curry made his triumphant return in late in the second round against the Portland Trail Blazers. In the Conference Finals was where Curry and the Warriors truly struggled, where they faced the Thunder, who were coming a great playoff series win against the San Antonio Spurs. The Warriors initially struggled against the Thunders massive length and elite athleticism and dug themselves into a 3-1 hole, creating more questions and rumors. Questions and rumors surrounding the health of MVP Stephen Curry due to his struggles. Draymond Green was even getting into trouble accumulating flagrant fouls points after kicking Steven Adams in the groin and playing a very physical series against the Thunder big men. The Warriors luckily completed a seemingly impossible task and came back against the Thunder thanks to their elite shooting. Although the Thunder was clearly the better team in the series, the Warriors were able to shoot themselves out of their hole and make it to their second straight NBA Finals.

In the NBA Finals we got another rematch, the Cleveland Cavaliers vs the Golden State Warriors. The first three games were complete blowouts, the Warriors taking a 2-1 series advantage. The Warriors looked stronger than ever, until catastrophe struck. First Draymond Green inadvertently hit LeBron James in the groin and they got into a heated conversation due to James attempting to step over him during play. This resulted in Green drawing a flagrant foul point, which was the last flagrant foul he could get without getting punished with a 1 game suspension. Secondly Andrew Bogut, the Warriors best rim-protector, went down with a season ending sprained knee. Despite winning the game the Warriors entered Game 5 with a lot of questions. Without their fiery leader game 5 and their rim protector for the rest of the series, the Warriors suffered an epic collapse that resulted in the Cavs becoming the first team in NBA Finals history to successfully come back from a 3-1 series deficit.

What was it that led to possibly the greatest collapse in NBA Finals history? The accumulation of fatigue, emotional and physical is what most likely did. At least that’s what most pundits and fans believe. It makes the most sense, too, as the Warriors most serious mistake ended up with them failing to defend their title. All season long the team claimed they didn’t care about beating the 95-96 Chicago Bulls’ regular season title, but clearly they did. That pursuit of the title of being the greatest regular season resulted in them clearly being on their last legs in the playoffs, running on fumes and feeling the fatigue and frustration of an incredibly taxing season and playoffs. It’s why Stephen Curry hurt his knee and ankle, noticeably showing the signs of those injuries in the Conference Finals and Finals. It was the reason Andre Bogut’s legged buckled on him and the big men went down with a knee injury, and why Andre Iguodala battled a back injury the last two games of the series. A word to the wise, and any team seeking regular season infamy, IT’S NOT WORTH IT. Look at these Golden State Warriors as proof that the regular season truly means nothing in the long term.

With Game 7 Win, Lebron Cements Legacy

The Cleveland Cavaliers weren’t supposed to do this. Down 3-1 to the same Golden State Warriors that won 73 games in the regular season. The same Warriors that had the unanimous MVP in Stephen Curry, and his fellow Splash Bro, Klay Thompson. The same transcendent squad that demolished the Cavs in the regular season and the first two games of the Finals. This was supposed to be the crowning achievement of the greatest regular season of all time. James wasn’t going to fulfill his promise of bringing a championship this season. However, the thing with sports and life is, it doesn’t always go the way it’s expected.

The comeback started in Game 5, with Draymond Green suspended because he accumulated too many flagrant fouls after his reactionary swing at James’ groin area. The narrative that Lebron James couldn’t take trash talk and possibly telling on Draymond Green when he mentioned that Green allegedly called him the “B” word. Even Klay Thompson had a hot take, stating that James must’ve had his feelings hurt. With the heart and soul of the Warriors sidelined, James and Kyrie Irving responded to all the criticism while combining for 82 points, the 112-97 win, and a newfound hope that maybe this series wasn’t over. In Game 6, James again dropped 41 points, collected 8 rebounds, and dished out 11 assists. Kyrie had 23 and the series was now tied up 3-3.  With Game 7 approaching there was more and more talk coming from journalists and fans alike saying that if the Cavs don’t win, James’ legacy would be tarnished, eviscerated, that he was no longer the best in the world at what he does. Game 7 would be the crucible of James’ illustrious career, the defining moment of a Hall of Fame career.  If the Warriors clinched the series, Steph Curry would’ve taken the crown and on the opposite end of the spectrum, unparalleled media scrutiny unseen in sports. All the contempt for James would’ve been warranted if it all went for not. James did have all the momentum, history seemed to be on his side, and no one else plays better with his back against the wall than Lebron James.

Game 7 went as everyone thought it would. For 48 minutes we saw both teams playing at the highest level they could, and it resulted in the most entertaining game of the year. It was a game of runs, who could take the most punches and stay on their feet. Who ever got that last run would win the game. Although they couldn’t hit water if it was right in front of them, both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were throwing jabs throughout the contests. Both were one shot and a defensive stop from having one of their patented explosions and putting the game away. Draymond Green did most of the heavy lifting, throwing several haymakers with his 6 three pointers and terrific defense.Green did all he could for the Warriors, trying in vain to lift a tired and ragged team clearly on its last legs after a grueling playoff and regular season. The near triple double with 32 points(a career high), 15 rebounds, and 9 assists just wasn’t enough.

Kyrie Irving, Lebron James, and Kevin Love all had great games for the Cavs. Even Kevin Love finally came out and had a good game collecting 14 rebounds and chipped in for stretches of the game with 9 points. It was Lebron James who had a monster game, leaving everything on the court with a triple double. Irving had a beautiful game hitting shot after shot, even hitting the biggest shot of the game with just under a minute left with a big time 3. Game 7 went down to the final possession, and even though Curry missed his potential game tying three, him and the Warriors had the greatest regular season of all time. That accomplishment just so happens to come with a big asterisk. the 22016 Warriors share the same infamy as the 2007 New England Patriots for being one of the greatest history as the greatest team in sports history to not win the championship.  On the other end Lebron James gets to say that his Cavaliers were the first team in NBA Finals to come back from a 3-1 deficit. James was also able to keep his promise and fulfill his destiny as the man whom brought a championship back to Cleaveland after 52 long dry years. With his 3rd title, Lebron James cemented his legacy and reestablished his title of best player in the world.

Can Steph Curry Solve His Shooting Woes?

Ever since Stephen Curry sprained his right knee in the first round of playoffs against the Houston Rockets, he hasn’t been his usual dynamic self. He’s struggled with turnovers, efficiency, and a noticeably slower first step. As recently as Monday, there were multiple reports stating that Curry now has shoulder and knee issues that may even require surgery. If all this is true then it would make sense of why the back-to-back MVP has failed to make a significant impact in the playoffs. In the 14 games that Curry has played since his knee injury, he’s averaged  26.7 points on an inefficient(for Curry) 43% shooting and 37% 3 point clip.

For a player that became the newest member of the vaunted 50-40-90 club, that’s just unacceptable. Of course as an athlete and competitor, Curry won’t go out to the media and make an excuse that his injuries are the reason why he’s played so poorly, it just isn’t in his DNA. It certainly doesn’t help ward off all the hate that has been thrown his way either. All throughout the season, NBA legends such as Oscar Robertson, Scottie Pippen, and Charles Barkley have all gone on record saying that their teams could beat the Warriors, that Steph Curry wouldn’t be as great in their era, that Curry and Warriors are even “soft.”  If Curry fails to win the NBA Finals MVP again, pundits may even have the gall to question his importance to their playoff success. That award might even go to Draymond Green or Andre Iguodala so far as they have had a far better impact on the Finals. Of course only  way to solve this unadulterated contempt for greatness is to just win. All the pressure is on the Baby-Faced Assassin to win one more game, and to cement this team legacy as not only having the best regular season of all time, but also back to back champions. Something, that no matter what anyone else believes, puts them on the short list of all-time greatest teams in NBA history.

Have The Thunder Finally Exercised Their Demons?

The main story-lines defining the Oklahoma City Thunder going into playoffs was the 14 blown 4th quarter leads, mediocre coaching, and of course the impending free agency of former MVP Kevin Durant. However the Thunder have somehow been able to reverse these trends, starting with their second round series against the San Antonio Spurs. Game 4 of the series was when things started to materialize, despite the struggles Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant faced earlier in the game. It was in the 2nd half, Billy Donovan started to put Kevin Durant in easier scoring situations, as well as using a “twin towers” lineup with Enes Kanter and Steven Adams that not only helped offensively but also defensively. Kevin Durant ended up scoring 29 point in the 2nd half, and 17 in the 4th quarter, while Steven Adams himself dominated his match-up against Tim Duncan, this was actually not only the first time Tim Duncan failed to score in a playoff game but he also didn’t play in the 4th quarter. This was the game that they were able to not only come back from a 4 point deficit, but behind KD, Dion Waiters, and even Enes Kanter they took and protected their lead. To top it all off the Thunder only allowed the Spurs to score 16 points 4th quarter, while they scored 34. In Game 5 it was a role change as we saw Russell Westbrook dominate the second half scoring 21 points of his 35 final points. The game was a defensive battle throughout, the Thunder dug in and allowed the Spurs little leeway for mistakes on both ends. Thanks to the Thunder length and athleticism the Spurs only shoot 39.8 percent on the night, as well as winning rebounding battle 54-36. The Spurs also struggled in the 4th quarter, shooting 6-21 in the final frame as the Thunder shot 10-18 on their end. In Game 6 the game started out well initially for the Spurs,  as they a 16-10 lead at one point but the slim lead didn’t last. The Thunder inserted their defensive will, as the Spurs bench and key players like Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard shrunk away from the monumental moment. The Thunder went on a 17-2 run in the second quarter and entered the second half with a 23 point cushion. Of course the Spurs would go on a 20-6 run to shrink the lead down after being down by as much as 28. They eventually trimmed the lead down to 11 but that was as close as they would get as Russell Westbrook hit a 3 to end any hopes the Spurs had.

In Game 1 of the Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors,(who by the way beat this same Thunder team 3 teams) proved to be up to the hype it gathered pre game. In the first half the Warriors were great, sustaining their two-way greatness by following their patent of creating turnovers and hot shooting from Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry. Although there was a double digit the OKC Thunder were able to survive the onslaughts that so often demoralize teams. They began the 2nd half with a 13 point but the Thunder came out with a new resolve.  Billy Donovan made some quick halftime adjustment which allowed the Thunder to hold the Warriors to 42 points in the 2nd half. In addition to the lack of turnovers, Billy Donovan also played Enes Kanter and Steven Adams together, although having the two big men in at the same time didn’t help the offensive spacing, the duo was more than able to hold their own on the boards and defense. Other role players like Dion Waiters and Andre Roberson played a key role in holding the Warriors to their lowest 2nd half of output of the season. The most important detail about the 3rd quarter is the huge 19 point explosion Russell Westbrook had to help the Thunder get back into the game. Kevin Durant despite his own struggles hit a huge jumper at the top of free throw line with 30.7 seconds left at the game. The Thunder were able to extend their defensive dominance of the 4th quarter and held the Warriors to 14 points.Them being able to force such bad looks and bad decisions from the Warriors was the key reason as to why the pulled away with a confidence boosting win.

Although it was just Game 1 this result of this win will go a long way in helping the OKC Thunder gain more confidence in themselves and Kevin Durant possibly signing another contract with the only team he’s known in his professional career. Stay tuned here to get more anaylsis of the Western Conference Finals as well as the Eastern Conference Finals