Woo-hoo! It’s almost time for the NBA Playoffs, which means it’s almost time for LeBron-Warriors Pt.3. All playoff-pertinent questions regarding the Golden State Warriors are as follows:
Q: Kevin Durant has officially been on the court for two games and the Warriors have already lost more games with him healthy than they did in their preceding 13 with him sidelined. Are the Warriors actually worse with Durant like some (idiots) have suggested?
A: Every time a star player goes down, the question of ‘is Team X better without Superstar X’ is thrown around. It happened when Westbrook went down in Oklahoma City, it happened when Durant went down in Oklahoma City, it happened when Wade rested in Miami, etc. It’s almost always a ridiculous question with an almost always blatantly obvious answer: NO. The Warriors are not better without Durant.
Although the Warriors managed to gain a rhythm and reel off a 13-game win streak without Durant, he’s still one of the best five players on the planet. Is any team better off without one of the best five players on the planet? No.
Q: The Warriors record obviously isn’t what it was a year ago, but when looking at their numbers, they may actually be better statistically. With that said, the competition appears to be just as stringent as a year ago — a year in which the Warriors probably shouldn’t have even made it to the Finals. So, who do the Warriors least want to see in the Western Conference Playoffs?
A: The Houston Rockets are an interesting choice here because they’ve practically built a mirror image of the Warriors at least stylistically. Get behind the arc and jack it up! But, any team that attempts to beat the Warriors at their own game probably won’t be all too successful in doing so.
I’m not even going to cite regular season matchups as possible insight to a playoff series between the two because Kerr was probably hiding 10 tricks up his sleeve and Pop was probably hiding 1,000 when they met in the regular season. There are three reasons the Spurs have a chance to beat the Warriors: (1) Kawhi Leonard for obvious reasons, (2) Pop for even more obvious reasons, and (3) their style of game opposes that of the Warriors. Yes, the Spurs work off of ball movement like the Warriors, but they also possess the ability to pound it in down low — something the Warriors don’t. If the Spurs play the perfect series, they’ll be able to knock off the Warriors. It’s a daunting task but nothing a maestro like Pop can’t orchestrate his ensemble to do.
Q: The Warriors have played 81 games thus far and we’re still not sure who the alpha dog is between Curry and Durant. Who NEEDS to be the alpha in order for them to win the title?
A: I think there’s enough evidence to suggest that Stephen Curry needs to be the alpha dog in order to ensure that the Warriors raise a banner next October. It’s as simple as this: Last year, the Warriors came within four points of capturing their second straight title and capping off the greatest season in NBA history. They did this with Harrison Barnes as their small forward as opposed to Durant. If nothing else changes from last year and the Warriors slide Durant into Barnes role, they win the title with ease, right? Durant is worth four freaking points.
Here’s what I’m saying: Last year, Curry was the obvious alpha dog on the Warriors. This year, in an effort to accommodate Durant, he’s taken a back seat. It’s time for Curry to take the steering wheel FULL-TIME and kick Durant into the backseat. If he does this, Durant slides into the Barnes role and violà, the Warriors sweep the playoffs. Now, they won’t do this because Durant & co. aren’t quite as smart as me, but they definitely should.
Q: The Warriors are locked into a first-round matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers thanks to the flamethrower known as Russell Westbrook knocking out the Denver Nuggets. How many games will the Blazers win?
A: When facing a backcourt as dynamic as Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, you can never just summarily dismiss the opposition. I suppose Lillard and McCollum could simultaneously go nuclear and steal one from the Warriors while they’re still ironing out the wrinkles of working Durant back into the offense. But, I wouldn’t bet on it. Warriors in four.
Q: It’s prediction time. Since everyone knows we’re headed for Cavaliers-Warriors or rather LeBron-Warriors Pt.3, who wins the series?
A: Despite the fact that we’re putting the same two organizations with a lot of the same players against each other, these teams are entirely different than they were a year ago.
The Warriors added Durant — one of the best five players in the world — this past offseason. However, they did so in exchange for their bench that played so well for them all last season and into the NBA Finals. They also did so in exchange for a piece of Curry’s magic. Curry doesn’t appear to be comfortable playing with Durant yet and this unease could manifest itself come NBA Finals time.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, on the other hand, have had some uncertainty of their own. Injuries have riddled the team all season long and inconsistency appears omnipresent when looking through their schedule. They’ve been fairly careless for basically the entire second half of this season and bad habits could haunt them come NBA Finals time.
Despite problems from both teams, this will be the Finals matchup. I can guarantee you that. They’re the two most complete and talented teams in the league and the only thing that can stop either team from winning the title is each other.
With all that said I’m tempted to remain on the hook and forgo my prediction until the series is set in stone and I get a chance to see how either team plays leading up to it. But, that’d be a cop-out and I don’t want to cop out. So f*** it, Cavaliers win in 7. LeBron gets to champagne-soak Oracle once again.