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.

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.

What In The World Do The Cavs Do Without Kyrie Irving?

The date June 5th, 2015  could live on as the day the Cavaliers lost the NBA Finals. Daryl Ruiter, of 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland, was the first to report the dreadful news that Kyrie Irving is lost for the rest of the Finals with a fractured left kneecap that will keep him out for 3-4 months:

Hearing that Kyrie Irving is injured again isn’t exactly unfamiliar to Cavalier fans. He controversially only played 11 games in his first and only season at Duke University. Over the course of four professional seasons, Kyrie has missed 72 out of 328 career games due to several injuries. The graphic below will highlight just how fragile Kyrie Irving’s body has been:

Not only is Kyrie Irving gone, but so is Kevin Love. The power forward was hurt in Game 4 in the first round against the Celtics when Kelly Olynyk pulled his shoulder out it’s socket on a loose ball play:

When both are playing at 100 percent healthy, Irving and Kevin Love play like perennial All-Stars. Luckily for the Cavs, they still have the best player in the world in Lebron James. In Game 1 the Warriors game-plan was to let James get his points, but not allow him to get anybody else involved in the offense. Rest assured, for the rest of this Finals series James will do everything in his power to make sure guys like J.R. Smith, Matthew Dellavedova, and Timofey Mosgov involved in the offense as well as Iman Shumpert, and even Tristan Thompson. If any of those players can relieve a little burden off James by contributing at least double digit points than the Cavs will have a better chance than most believe. Lebron James will have to play out of his mind to make sure the Cavs have a fighters chance, but if he gets some help than the Cavs instantly become a bigger threat. The Cavs aren’t as great of a team as they would be with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, but they will always be a threat if they have Lebron James. As long as he dominates and he gets everyone else involved, the Cavaliers will have a chance of winning this series.