The Golden State Warriors are the odds on favorite to win the NBA championship this season. Barring injury, it will take a tour de force performance for a team to defeat the Warriors en route to another NBA championship.
The Portland Trail Blazers provided the biggest scare to the Warriors this postseason thanks to their dynamic backcourt of C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard in Game 1 of the first round. So far they are the only team that put a Warriors victory in doubt as they were able to trade punches with the Warriors for three quarters until the Dubs pulled away in the fourth. Most NBA teams don’t expect to lose when your two best players combine for 75 points, but against the Warriors their attempts were futile.
Game 2 provided little excitement as it was a typical Warriors beat down 110-81. As maligned as the Warriors are for having a shaky defense, they held a top 10 offense to 81 points and tallied 11 blocks without their leading shot blocker Kevin Durant. Game 3 was the Blazers’ best shot at getting on the board with another great performance by Lillard and McCollum, but too little too late for the Blazers and too much Steph Curry for the Dubs ended any chance Portland had at winning the series.
The threat of upstart big man Jusuf Nurkic returning to face the Warriors would have added intrigue to the series, but in the end, it turned out to be an idle threat. After playing a big part in the Blazers’ second-half surge to make the playoffs, Nurkic mustered only 17 minutes of play the entire series. The scary part of the Warriors sweep of the Blazers was that the point differential for the series was 66 points with three of those games played without Kevin Durant.
If anything can be taken from Portland’s attempt to knock out the Western Conference champs it’s that you need four games of dynamic guard play to have a chance. Steph Curry is an improved defender but is still a liability that has to be forced to guard defensively if his teams want to have a chance. Going at Curry and making Klay Thompson exert himself defensively provided a stalemate at the backcourt position, but upfront is where the Blazers didn’t have enough to beat the Warriors.
During the regular season, the Warriors were the worst team as far as giving up offensive rebounds goes, allowing nearly 12 a game. With Draymond Green as the crunch time center, teams with size can have a field day on the offensive glass. Unfortunately, few teams built themselves for that advantage as teams are going with shooting over rebounding in crunch time. Centers have become a relic not only to the All-Star game but NBA rotations, and the Warriors craft their game plan around that. This postseason only Marc Gasol and Deandre Jordan cracked the top 30 in minutes played, and both those bigs were sent packing in the first round. Rudy Gobert is the last center standing, but his wavering health and inability to make free throws have limited his impact so far in Utah’s series against Golden State.
Hypothetically speaking a team with dynamic guard play with bigs that can clean the offensive glass would match up well with the Warriors. That team just happens to be the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Already having proven that they can beat the Warriors helps their case just as much as the collective rebounding of Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love. Thompson would potentially frustrate Green, into yet another bonehead technical, as his 27 offensive rebounds were nearly 5 times as many as Green could accumulate in last year’s NBA Finals.
Kyrie Irving alone is the definition of dynamic guard play, especially with his ability to wear out Steph Curry off the dribble when given a chance. The additions of Kyle Korver and Deron Williams will help Cleveland on the wing on top of having Lebron James. Still, the question remains for any team going up against the Warriors is how do you game plan against Kevin Durant?
The Warriors are too good to warrant a game long double team, but only the best defensive team in the world would play Golden State’s four All-Stars straight up. Defense has not been the Cavs strong suit, falling to the bottom of the league during the regular season giving up 107.2 per game. Despite locking in defensively for the playoffs so far, they have yet to face an offense like Golden State and will not until the third act of the Cavs-Warriors trilogy. Until then the best way to beat the Warriors is to hope they decide not to lock in on both ends. Barring a disappearing act by their All-NBA quartet, the Warriors will continue to roll through the playoffs.
- I'm a 19-year old sophomore dual major in Journalism and Sports Management at Eastern Nazarene College. Born in Boston, MA raised in Brockton, and just happy to be here at NGSC Sports.