Last week I pitched an article idea — 10 things we learned about the Warriors. When I discussed with DK’s own Devlin D’Zmura, the Thunder held a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference Finals.
Needless to say, the assumption at the time was that OKC would find a way to finish off the series and keep a 73-win team out of the NBA Finals. We’ve got a much different story line now… although likely a more compelling one.
So the question remains the same — what did we learn about the Warriors in this series?
They Joined Even More Elite Company
233 NBA teams have been down 1-3 in a best of seven series and the Warriors became just the 10th to complete the comeback. When it comes to doing it against elite competition, GSW is the first team to comeback from a 3-1 deficit in a Conference Finals since the ’81 Celtics — who went on to win it all. What does it all mean? GSW’s three-game winning streak is just as validating as their 73-win season because of when they did it, how they did it and who they did it against.
We Kinda Knew No Lead Is Ever Safe, But Now We Really Know
The Warriors were down double-digits in both Games 6 and 7. We’ve seen them comeback to win games all season, but this wasn’t a December night in Philly. These were back-to-back comebacks against an elite team with two superstars when a loss means the season is over. There’s a big difference. It’s completely unfair to expect a team to win a game anytime they get down big, but the Warriors seem to be able to when they need it most.
They Won’t Crack Mentally
Simply put, these guys show no quit. They sounded silly with how much confidence they had in themselves after the Thunder laid down beatings in Games 3 and 4. But in the end, all that matters is that the coaches and players in that locker room believe. Just like no lead in a game is safe, no series lead is safe either. The Cavs could jump out to a 3-0 Finals lead and GSW would have a great chance to grind it out because they believe they can.
Draymond’s Energy Is Necessary
Green was practically invisible in the first two games in OKC. There was the incident with Steven Adams, but wipe that away and do you remember anything about Draymond from Games 3 and 4? Nope. That’s because he had 12 points (on two made field goals), 15 rebounds and five assists in 70 minutes in those two games. Winning goes hand-in-hand with Draymond being engaged.
Klay Might Be Better Than We Thought
Curry is the MVP. Green is the spark plug. Thompson is the …? We’ve never really defined his role, but after Game 6, Klay is the savior. 41 points on 11 triples kept the Warriors alive thanks to one of the most clutch performances we’ve ever seen when facing elimination on the road. LeBron’s Game 6 in Boston during the 2012 ECF is a legit comparison. Klay can bail his team out of any situation, and he doesn’t get enough credit — he nailed 30 3-pointers in this series.
Steph Can’t Be Held Down For Long
Nobody had ever made 30 3-pointers in a series until this one. It wasn’t just Thompson, though. Curry had 32 of his own. A lot was made of him shooting 5-for-21 from downtown in Games 3 and 4 in OKC. In the other five games he shot 27-for-56 — including 13-for-26 when it counted most in Games 6 and 7. Curry can be contained for a couple of games, but we’ve still never seen it last for a series. To beat the Warriors four times, someone has to find a way to win a couple games even when Curry is in the zone, and that’s also assuming you can also win a couple if/when Steph isn’t himself.
They Don’t Need The Most Talent To Win
Steph/Klay/Dray are great, but for most of this series OKC had the two best players on the floor. KD and Westbrook are the only duo in the NBA that can boast that. Yes, it may be more telling of an OKC collapse/choke/whatever you want to call it, but the Warriors didn’t benefit from a Thunder collapse, they ripped this series out of the hands of Durant and Westbrook. This was by far the best team Golden State has beaten in the postseason (factoring in Irving and Love’s injuries last season).
Weaknesses Were Exposed
GSW is not invincible. We do have to mention it — OKC showed us how to beat the Warriors. The problem is only a couple teams have the personnel to do so. You need the talent that can shoot and relentlessly attack the rim (KD/Russ), you need the size and length on defense (Roberson/Ibaka/Durant), you need coaching adjustments (Donovan), you need some psychos (Adams/Westbrook) and you need some luck (Curry/Thompson/Green disappearing at times). Easy, right?
They Thrive With Their Backs Against The Wall
And even after all that, the Warriors still win three games in a row and walk away the winners. It’s almost inexplicable, but this team has been doing it all season. Even if you expose them, the Warriors will still find a way to get just enough production when they need it the most. They did it in Game 6 and they did it in the series as a whole.
They’re The Ultimate Team
Superstars are what win you games/series/championships in the NBA. That’s been the case for years aside from a rare exception. Fine, Curry is the MVP, but if I’m building a franchise, I’ll take LeBron or Durant before Curry. Which does make it impressive that the Warriors are winning as a real team. Everyone excels in their role from the MVP, to the All-Stars to the role players. Everything is a fit. It just works. If GSW can knock off Durant and then LeBron both in their primes, that would be a true team achievement by NBA standards.
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