The Warriors’ outdated regime is proving to be its identical self 5 video games into the playoffs with out an injured Kevin Durant. Days after sending the Houston Rockets packing, the Warriors started a four-game sweep of the Blazers, ending off the ultimate three video games with rallies from 15 factors down. It culminated in an time beyond regulation Recreation Four win during which the Warriors survived an inexplicable Stephen Curry journey in regulation.
The four-game sweep of Portland showcased the qualities that triggered many to fall in love with the Warriors within the first place: continuous motion, pinpoint passing, hectic protection, and the one-two punch of Curry’s taking pictures and Draymond Inexperienced’s depth.
In Recreation 1 vs. Portland, Curry was all the pieces with the reins handed to him, and solely him, as soon as once more. He scored 36 factors with 9 threes on 15 tries, hitting clutch shot after clutch, off-balance shot. He was his quintessential self, as had been Klay Thompson (26 factors) and Draymond Inexperienced (12 factors, 10 rebounds, 5 assists.)
In Recreation 2, Curry dropped 37 factors, and Inexperienced painted a 16-point, 10-rebound, seven-assist masterpiece. This was classic Warriors.
With the sport on the road, Golden State went again to outdated devoted: the Curry-Inexperienced pick-and-roll.
Then, Andre Igoudala sealed it with a savage strip of Lillard.
Recreation Three belonged to Draymond, as he posted a triple double with 20 factors, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists to guide a Warriors comeback. He broke the need of the Blazers together with his all-court brilliance.
This is without doubt one of the most unimaginable performs I’ve ever seen.
The stability to one way or the other shut that a lot area to cease the three AND retreat again for the steal. 95% of NBA gamers are flying previous Seth to half-court, a lot much less stopping the shot AND the pocket go. pic.twitter.com/en8w3qXaOz
— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) May 19, 2019
Recreation Four was weird. Portland took one other halftime lead because of a 25-point first half from Meyers Leonard (you learn that proper) and nonetheless led by double digits late within the third quarter. Then, Inexperienced and Curry took over, main the Warriors to the brink of a regulation win with triple doubles of their very own. That didn’t occur initially due to this unusual Curry resolution to step again behind the three-point line when he might have taken an open shot.
In the long run, although, it didn’t matter. Inexperienced hit a clutch three within the last minute of regulation to place the Warriors up 4, and Klay Thompson saved the day on the finish by altering Damian Lillard’s game-tying layup try.
This sweep got here after the crew introduced that Durant wouldn’t be re-evaluated till after Recreation 5 of this sequence. The Warriors solved that downside by not attending to a Recreation 5, and now they’ve 9 days of relaxation. It certain doesn’t seem like the Warriors want Durant.
That didn’t appear true final spherical
If there was a time for the back-to-back defending champions to crash and burn, it was with two minutes to play within the third quarter of a pivotal Recreation 5 in opposition to the Houston Rockets. However they didn’t let up then, both.
After giving up 17 factors of a as soon as 20-point lead, the scene at Oracle turned darker. Durant pulled up for a two-point shot over the outstretched arms of Iman Shumpert, then reached down behind his leg whereas galloping down the ground. He suffered a non-contact harm the crew is asking a calf pressure, and didn’t return.
So many NBA ramifications — tonight, these playoffs, this summer season and much past — journey on whether or not this scary Kevin Durant harm is what many concern pic.twitter.com/ZYFDnaUkXX
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) May 9, 2019
Durant’s harm might’ve been the ultimate dagger. There was greater than 1 / 4’s price of basketball left to play in a recreation that would’ve pushed the Warriors to the brink of not solely sequence elimination, however dynasty extinction. The most effective participant of those complete playoffs was gone.
Abruptly, although, Curry (lastly) turned himself once more. Within the minutes with Durant on the ground, Curry shot 4-of-14 for 9 factors. Within the 14 minutes of recreation time after, he shot 5-of-9 for 16 factors as Golden State went on to safe a 104-99 win and 3-2 sequence lead.
Two nights later, the Durant-less Warriors completed the job in dramatic trend, beating the Rockets, 118-113, in Recreation 6 to win the sequence. The outdated guard turned again the clock in lovely trend. Andre Iguodala drained 5 threes and completed with 17 factors in 37 minutes. Shaun Livingston dropped 11 factors in 13 minutes. Klay Thompson drained shot after shot within the first half, a la his legendary Recreation 6 efficiency in opposition to Oklahoma Metropolis in 2016.
After which there was Curry. Within the first half of Recreation 6, he had zero factors. Zero. He seemed like he didn’t know learn how to play basketball.
He ended with 33 factors, all within the second half, together with this Classic Steph dagger.
That is what legends do, in fact, and Curry is a legend regardless of his uneven postseason thus far. However his sudden burst to avoid wasting the sequence virtually appeared cynically scripted, as if it was written by each Warriors fan who’s ever criticized Durant and longed for the times of the 2015 Golden State core to return.
Earlier than we dig deep, it’s essential to level out that none of what’s unfolded since Durant’s harm in Recreation 5 in opposition to the Rockets proves the Warriors don’t want Durant or are higher off with out him. If Durant weren’t a Warrior, there’s no assure the crew even makes it this deep into the postseason. If he ought to need again in to Golden State for an additional go at it, he ought to be welcomed again with open arms.
However what the Warriors’ efficiency has proven is that the outdated, once-beloved Warriors — the one the place Curry and Thompson had been the Splash Brothers and Draymond Inexperienced fueled all the hearth — nonetheless exists, and might nonetheless be deadly. Within the time since Durant left together with his harm in Recreation 5, Golden State sunk 12 of the 23 photographs it took to safe the win. From the 6:31 mark of the fourth quarter of Recreation 6 on, Curry outscored the Rockets by himself, 18-16. He then dropped 35, 37, 36, and 37 within the 4 video games of the West Finals.
That remaining group will likely be examined in opposition to the Milwaukee Bucks or Toronto Raptors. Durant received’t return till the NBA Finals, almost certainly, and with the quad tear harm to DeMarcus Cousins final spherical, Golden State is already short-staffed. With a lot cash unfold thinly throughout its high 5 gamers, the Warriors inexperienced bench is being uncovered.
Meaning success or failure will fall on the shoulders of Curry, Thompson, Inexperienced, and Iguodala over again, however with a fraction of the reinforcements and the gravity of older age. This run will likely be so much completely different than three years in the past, and arguably means much more.
There was respectable doubt as to whether that Demise Lineup core would ever be sufficient once more, even with Durant. With James Harden enjoying at even larger degree than a season in the past, Giannis Antetokounmpo transcending the league, and Kawhi Leonard totally wholesome on a crew constructed for him, the thought was the remainder of the league had caught up. All through all the season, as Durant’s departure from the franchise felt inevitable, we’ve debated if the rest of the 2016 73-win core might carry championship weight once more with out him. Three years and two all-stars in the past, opinions wouldn’t have been this diversified.
Up to now, it certain appears to be like like they’ll. Will the NBA Finals be the last word check for a Durant-less situation we didn’t suppose potential till 2019-20? Perhaps it’ll merely be the proper Free Company Wants cheat sheet for the Warriors’ entrance workplace because the crew collapses spectacularly. Perhaps Durant will return and the Warriors will go to yet one more degree. Or, perhaps it’ll solid one other spell of doom over a league that was simply beginning to style the Warriors’ first indicators of vulnerability in years.