In Praise of the Champs: 7 Reasons to Remember the Warriors’ Repeat
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
- The Warriors’ run to a third championship in four years wasn’t always pretty, but the results are the same and that’s all that matters.
- This gets lost amid all of their 3s: Golden State’s defensive intensity in the playoffs was something truly special.
- Oh, and they covered, too: The Warriors went 17-7 ATS when underdogs or favored by single digits the past two playoffs.
CLEVELAND — The velvet ropes are packed away. The champagne is being washed from the visitor’s locker room at Quicken Loans once again. The parade route through East Bay is already programmed. The Golden State Warriors are champions for the third time in four years.
Steph Curry has matched LeBron James (and James Worthy, Dwyane Wade, and Larry Bird) in titles. Kevin Durant has won his second Finals MVP. Steve Kerr has added his eighth championship ring. It wasn’t always pretty, it wasn’t always dominant, but the results are the same. What may be the greatest team in NBA history has secured another ring. It’s time to give credit where credit is due.
Here are seven reasons this Warriors playoff run was so impressive and amazing.
1. The Repeat
Going back-to-back is truly difficult, even for dominant teams such as this one. It’s a grind, and this one was notoriously difficult. Shaun Livingston said this was the hardest season of his career, personally, for how draining it was. David West told the Undefeated after the game that there were things that challenged Golden State throughout the season that no one knows. The ones we know of include injuries to Draymond Green, Curry, Patrick McCaw, Jordan Bell and Andre Iguodala at various times, a preseason trip to China that took more out of them than they expected and just the grind of that fourth Finals run. So few teams make it this far for a reason. It’s not the physical toll; it’s the mental one, the emotional wear and tear.
Sure, the talent covers for most of it. That’s just the reality. They are so good, the things that become other teams’ downfall hardly dent the Warriors’ armor. And no, this wasn’t the most impressive run we’ve seen from this team, let alone any great champion. In many ways, this season will get lost like the 1997 Bulls. It adds to the overall greatness. It wasn’t defining in any sense, it wasn’t joyful, it wasn’t really all that exciting. But it was hard, in whatever way anything can be difficult for the Warriors, and they still succeeded.
2. The Defense
Defense always gets lost, but this Warriors team’s offense means it particularly gets shoved to the side. Who cares about rotations when you’re seeing the Splash Brothers bomb from deep? But the defense has always been the starting point for this team, since 2015. The Warriors play fast, great defense, something no other team in history has done as well as they have.
The Warriors’ switching with their length stands out. Their communication and their ability to make whatever adjustment necessary — like how they let LeBron James ISO as much as he wanted on Curry and then met him at the rim with layers of defense — is a tactical advantage. But the biggest thing that gets lost, that you have to see up close and personally in the playoffs to appreciate is how they attack every possession, every angle, over and over: They just gnaw at you like a pack of wolves until there’s no meat left on your offensive possession.
Block. Challenge. Chase. Block. Challenge. Locate. Challenge. Swipe. Swipe. Steal.
The Warriors contest everything, and they manage to do it without fouling. It is a remarkable combination of discipline and intensity that has to be well coached and well executed by great players and even the lesser role players such as Nick Young.
Golden State finished with the ninth-best Defensive Rating in the regular season despite injuries and apathy. In the playoffs, when engaged? The Warriors finished No. 1 league-wide, allowing just 101.5 points per 100 possessions. Their offense could always score, but their defense is the rhythm section that sets the tone and the beat for what makes the music go.
3. The Versatility
Golden State faced down the fastest team in the league in the New Orleans Pelicans. They faced the slow-it-down, grimy Spurs (without Kawhi Leonard). They took on the Rockets’ slow-as-molasses dripping-with-ISO attack, which irritated and frustrated them.
They beat them all. Golden State’s versatility was on full display in these playoffs. Their length, their size, their speed, their stylistic fluidity. When the Hamptons 5 lineup didn’t work, Kerr went to a double-big lineup. When Kevon Looney’s success faded vs. the Cavaliers, he turned to, of all people, JaVale McGee. When Curry went down, the Warriors went KD-centric. When Curry returned, they unleashed the full arsenal.
The Warriors beat you with talent, but they can also beat you any way they need to.
Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
4. The Cover
Golden State finished 12-9 against the spread in the postseason, a product of the outrageous expectations heaped upon the Warriors. They finished 10-5 when underdogs or favored by fewer than 10 points. The past two years, since adding Durant? The Warriors are 17-7 ATS when underdogs or favored by single digits. That’s a nice 38.6% return on investment.
5. The Ease
The Warriors, by their own admission, very rarely played to their potential. In the regular season, they took entire games off. They had a game where the players coached, for God’s sake. They had only a few games where they really hit their max gear — Game 3 vs. New Orleans, Game 3 vs. the Rockets. A few regular-season games. They did not throw their fastball hardly at all this season.
And yet, they finished with the second-best Net Rating in the regular season and the best Net Rating in the playoffs. Oh, and they won the title, losing a total of two games in the three series vs. teams that weren’t Houston.
They rendered the Greatest Player on Earth powerless to stop them. LeBron James didn’t get a single game against them. That’s dominance.
LeBron and the Cavs were swept by the Spurs by a total of 24 points in 2007. They lost tonight by 23 and all 4 games by a combined 60 points. Lakers 2002 sweep over Nets was by a combined 37 points. 60 is the most of any of the 9 sweeps.
— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) June 9, 2018
6. The Offense
It’s better to show and not tell.
7. The Personality
Steve Kerr, the happy-go-lucky Sorcerer Supreme. Stephen Curry, the elven dagger-thrower. Draymond Green, the volcanic general. Klay Thompson, the Taoist sniper. Andre Iguodala, the codebreaker. Shaun Livingston and David West, the sages. Jordan Bell, the cash considerations. Nick Young and JaVale McGee, the victory cigars that burn through opponents. And Kevin Durant, the Sphinx.
There are support staff and PR staff and team media and trainers and assistant coaches and front-office officials and everything else. Everyone pulls one way, toward sacrifice, joy and team success.
The Warriors’ dominance infuriates people, but their approach is balanced, thoughtful and ingenious. All the talent in the world won’t win if it can’t work together.
After all this success, all this dominance, all this struggle and all this triumph, the Warriors are 6-5 favorites to win the 2019 NBA title, to three-peat, to dominate and win again, no matter where LeBron goes.
The Warriors are champions again, and their unprecedented run of excellence continues. The dynasty may have just begun.