Warriors advance to NBA Finals without past Splash Brother superpowers, which makes it all the more impressive

Warriors advance to NBA Finals without past Splash Brother superpowers, which makes it all the more impressive

In November 2018, amid what would become a four-game losing streak and a week after the infamous Draymond Green-Kevin Durant sideline blowout, Steve Kerr told reporters that his Golden State Warriors finally had a taste of the “real NBA.”

“We’ve had such a lovely existence for the past four seasons,” Kerr explained. “It’s the hardest time we’ve been in. This is the real NBA. We haven’t been in the real NBA for the past few years. We’ve been in that dream. And now we’re facing a real adversity and we have to get out of it ourselves.”

Kerr’s point was fair enough. The last threads of the Kevin Durant era were fraying. Injuries multiplied. Maybe the fairy tale part of the story was over. But this Warriors team, despite a bit of “adversity”, was still an all-time great team. They were surely the best team in the league and the big favorite to win it all.

At no time this season has that been the case. I don’t care what the odds have said at various times, or even what they will say to open the Finals, whether against Boston or Miami. And yet here they are, at their sixth final in the last eight years. For Warriors, this is the real NBA, where a flawed team must establish advantages on – or at least closer to – margins because Durant is gone and the Splash Brother superpowers of the past have been stripped down and recycled into actual human parts.

This only makes this accomplishment more impressive.

Want adversity? Let’s start with Curry, who had by far the worst shooting regular season of his career before missing the final three weeks with a sprained ligament in his foot.

How about Draymond Green, who missed two months from early January to mid-March with a bad drive in his back, a period during which the Warriors looked like a positively mediocre team.

Klay Thompson missed more than two calendar years with a torn ACL and ruptured Achilles and shot 38.5% from 3 in 32 regular season games in his return, which like Curry is the highest mark. low of his career.

These guys aren’t the players they used to be anymore, or at least they weren’t this season. That’s not to say they aren’t awesome yet. This is all relative to the incredibly high standard they have set. Curry was the All-NBA second team. Green would have been Defensive Player of the Year had he not been injured. But they’re not the guys they were in the early chapters of the dynasty anymore.

Those guys from 2014-19 were from another world. These guys could erase any previously committed sins with a nuclear five-minute 3-point shot streak that conjured up images of Michael J. Fox turning into a wolf.

They are always a threat, every night, to have one of those nights. Thompson did it Thursday, hitting eight 3s en route to 32 points. But you can’t count on it anymore. The Warriors were the 16th ranked offense in the league this season.

Those first two playoff series with Durant on board, the Warriors outscored their opponents by a combined 23.6 points per 100 possessions. This Warriors team came into play in Game 5 on Friday with a plus-4.8 net rating, and that’s against a Denver team missing their second- and third-best players and a Grizzlies team that had no Ja Morant for the final three games of the series. .

Thompson isn’t nearly the defender or consistent shooter he was before the injuries. Curry is 34 years old. Gone are the days when Golden State lacked a borderline Hall of Famer in Andre Iguodala, at the peak of his defensive and playmaking powers, as the sixth man. This version of Iggy is a shell of himself and hasn’t played since Game 3 of Round 1.

You hear people talk about “championship DNA” and this is what it sounds like; a fireball launcher continues to win at the elite level after going from 100 mph on the radar gun to 94 or 95, which is still great, but it’s not 100.

I don’t necessarily mean it’s easy to win when you have three of the greatest shooters in history throwing shots from all over the building, or when an all-time defense can, and often does , suffocate the life of opponents. almost on call, but that’s certainly not the challenge this team faced this season, when the margin for error was smaller than at any time in previous playoffs.

The Warriors have always been, and still are, an extremely skilled team, but this team had to find other, less spectacular ways to win. Curry made up for his 3-point struggles by entering — and finishing — the paint better than a 60 percent clip from 3 to 10 feet in the playoffs, by far the best number of his career. Kevon Looney had 22 rebounds in Game 6 against Memphis and 18 rebounds in Game 5 against Dallas. Jordan Poole is shooting 53% through the first three playoffs of his career.

And what about Andrew Wiggins? He’s a guy who was considered to have one of the worst contracts in the league in Minnesota, and he became an All-Star for these Warriors, thriving as a secondary scorer and taking over from Thompson as a defenseman. designated against elite perimeter scorers.

This is how you win without superpowers. Everyone participates. That includes the front office, which traded for Wiggins and made some key signings. They discovered a gem in Gary Payton II. They resisted the urge to trade Poole or Jonathan Kuminga, or even a Moses Moody or James Wiseman, building their bridge to the next era without sacrificing the championship potential of the current core. In the end, the Warriors, albeit with fewer fireworks, posted a playoff offensive rating consistent with the Durant years.

The Warriors still need four more wins for a fourth championship in the Kerr era, and indeed, this is an organization that expects to win it all. If they lose in the final, they won’t consider this season a success. But from the outside, it’s impossible not to rank this achievement among the best of this era, regardless of how this upcoming series plays out.

When Durant left and Thompson came back super rusty and Curry and Green started showing signs of aging, it was starting, to me at least, to feel like the Warriors needed a big trade to get back. in the conversation about the championship. How dare I question a team with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, let alone one coached by Steve Kerr. For years, this team’s fascinating skills largely masked their brave, tough-minded, fiercely proud and competitive nature, but now those traits are more evident and needed than ever. These guys are just winners. Plain and simple. And they’re not finished yet.

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