Warriors continue to look unflappable when it matters most

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Updated: May 15, 2018
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Just how good are the Golden State Warriors? Is it humanly possible to beat them in a seven-game series? Yeah, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers took them out in the 2016 NBA Finals. But that was before those Warriors, which finished 73-9, the best regular-season record in NBA history, added Kevin Durant.

When healthy, they’re as close as you’ll find to watching a flawless display of basketball. They have three of the most prolific shooters the game has ever seen, in Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. They have one of the league’s top defenders, and trash talkers, in Draymond Green. And they can send out a “Death lineup,” which is referred to as the “Hamptons 5” these days, that features Andre Iguodala, an athletic, versatile player who was named Finals MVP in 2015. The Warriors just have the perfect mix of top-tier talent that meshes well on the court.

The Houston Rockets were supposedly the one team with a roster assembled to compete with these Monstars. James Harden, Chris Paul and the gang finished the regular season with the best record in the NBA (65-17), which allowed them to earn home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. But that was snatched away on Monday night, as Golden State’s experience showed up late in a 119-106 victory, stealing Game 1 on the road.

Everything Houston worked for the entire season vanished in 48 minutes.

Durant put on one of his usual scoring exhibits, dropping 37 points on 14-of-27 shooting and making every defender who challenged him look too small or too slow. The four-time scoring champ just continues to get better with age. And since joining the Warriors, he has the opportunity to win a countless amount of rings. He already has one, and I can assure you there’ll be more where that came from.

It was a 56-56 tie at intermission, but the Warriors broke things open in the third quarter — as they always do — and outscored the Rockets in the second half 63-50.

There are normal Game 1 overreactions, but this opening contest of the Western Conference finals felt different. The Rockets didn’t necessarily play a bad game. Harden had 41 points, shot efficiently from the court (58 percent) and added seven assists. Their style just didn’t seem to be good enough to top Golden State in a series. Houston’s offense revolves around Harden, or Paul, isolating on the perimeter, playing one-on-one basketball. When most effective, their penetration draws a second defender, which allows them to kick it out to open shooters.

But the Warriors don’t need to help off their man much, if at all. So it puts pressure on Harden and Paul to score every time down court. They combined for 64 points in the loss, which would normally get the job done against an inferior opponent. And Eric Gordon, last season’s Sixth Man of the Year, chipped in with 15 off the bench.

But it just wasn’t enough.

The Warriors can win by a double-digit margin even when one of their top players isn’t clicking on all cylinders. It’s what makes them so difficult to beat. Curry, for instance, scored a quiet 18 on the night. But with Durant and Thompson pouring in a combined 65 points, it didn’t matter.

Now let’s say in Game 2 Durant or Thompson has an off night … Curry may get it going and drop 30. They just have too many weapons, and too many stars.

This isn’t to say Houston can’t bounce back and get a victory on its home court on Wednesday. That’s very possible. The problem: how can the Rockets outscore the Warriors enough to get four wins? Better yet, can they win more than one?

The Warriors are 25-3 overall in the postseason over the last two years. Since Durant arrived, no team has lasted more than five games when facing them in the playoffs. They lost once last season to Cleveland in the Finals. They lost once to San Antonio in the opening round this year. And they lost once to Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans in the quarterfinals.

We just may be witnessing the greatest team the NBA has seen. They’re three wins away from making a fourth-straight Finals appearance, a feat last accomplished by LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat from 2011-2014. The Warriors have dominated ever since.

This team is built to last, and built to win. The players have put their egos to the side and accepted being a part of something greater. A dynasty.

So let’s sit back, enjoy the ride and appreciate history. Because that’s exactly what we’re witnessing. Until the next collection of stars with perfect complementary players come along (a fully healthy Boston Celtics, maybe?), the Warriors will remain atop Mount Everest as the team to beat.

Josiah Turner

Josiah Turner

Josiah is the founder and editor-in-chief at Sideline Sports Report. He has written for ESPN.com and is currently a digital editor at the SEC Network. He has covered the Washington Redskins for FanSided, and he has also covered high school basketball for Rivals.com and the Mechanicsville Local newspaper. Josiah is from Chesapeake, Va., and a college graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University.

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