NBA regular season record for most wins? Check.
NBA’s first ever unanimous MVP? Check.
NBA Coach of the Year? Check.
Overcome playoff adversity? Check.
Rematch from last year’s NBA Finals? Check.
Chance to defend the NBA championship? Check.
The Golden State Warriors were on the verge of seeing their NBA record 73-9 regular season record come up in smoke. They trailed the Oklahoma City Thunder 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals before storming back to win the next three games and the series. Now, they get a rematch of last year’s NBA Finals against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers with the hope of becoming the sixth team in NBA history to win back-to-back championships.
The question regarding the health of Steph Curry was put to rest by the first ever unanimous NBA MVP in the final three games of the Western Conference Finals against the Thunder. He averaged 32 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists per game in the three games to put OKC to rest, including a 36-point performance in Game 7. He set an NBA playoff record for most three-pointers made in a seven-game series with 32 against the Thunder.
In 11 playoff games this season (missed 6 games with a right knee injury) he is averaging 26.7 points, 6.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game while shooting 45% from the floor and 40% from long range. This comes off a regular season that saw him win his second-consecutive MVP award by averaging 30.1 points, 6.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game. He also was a 50-40-90(field goal % from the floor, % from three, and % from free throw line) player for the first time in his career.
LeBron James was critical of the unanimous selection, claiming that he is more valuable to the Cavaliers than Curry is to the Warriors. That is a debatable subject that we will see play out for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Let’s put into perspective the season Curry had. Not only did he average 30 points per game, but he knocked down an NBA record 402 three pointers all while leading the Warriors to the best record in NBA history.
Klay Thompson has been on a three-point shooting tear in the playoffs. He single-handedly kept the Warriors season alive in Game 6 at Oklahoma City by scoring 41 points and knocking down and NBA playoff record 11 three-pointers. He kept his team afloat long enough for Curry to seal the deal with some threes of his own. Thompson is averaging 26.2 points in the playoffs and is shooting 45% from the floor and beyond the arc. He is one of the best two-way players in the game today and that will be put to the test as he will likely draw the assignment of guarding Kyrie Irving in the Finals.
Draymond Green will be the biggest x-factor for the Warriors against the Cavs. He is the heart and soul of this team, which can be a good and bad thing for his team. He has received five technical fouls this postseason and if he gets two more, he will be suspended for a game, something Golden State cannot afford. He was on the verge of a suspension for his groin kick to Steven Adam, the center for the Thunder. Instead of being suspended, he was fined $25,000.
Along with his antics on the court, he had an up-and-down series in the Western Conference Finals. He averages 11.3 points, 8.9 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game against the Thunder, but was held to just six points in games 3 and 4. For the playoffs he is averaging 15.1 points, 9.6 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game. He will be depended upon for his defensive play in this series as he will take turns guarding LeBron James along with primary defender Andre Iguodala. Iggy did a remarkable job against Kevin Durant in the last three games of the series, especially down the stretch of each game.
Players like Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala will need to continue to be the role players they have been for the past two seasons. Speaking of Iguodala, he started for just the second time all season in Game 7 against the Thunder and played his role. He was last year’s Finals MVP for his defense of James, holding him to just 33% from the floor when guarding him. It was odd to see him as Finals MVP as he came off the bench for the first three games before starting the final three. He is the ultimate role player and a model of what a lot of veterans around the league should be doing.
Steve Kerr, despite missing the first 43-games of the season was named NBA Coach of the Year, something else James did not agree with. He thought the Coach of the Year should have been Terry Stotts for what he was able to do with a Portland Trail Blazers team that wasn’t supposed to make the playoffs, let alone give the Warriors a hard-fought series. Kerr was being out-coached by rookie head coach Billy Donovan in the Western Conference Finals, but was able to push the right buttons at the right time for his team to advance. Some believe that Luke Walton, who was the interim head coach for the Warriors in Kerr’s absence, should have been Coach of the Year, but everyone knows that the head coach is the one who gets the award. Either way, whether it was Kerr or Walton or both, the coach of this team should have been named Coach of the Year.
If Golden State continues to average nearly 111 points per game and shoot like they have showed many times throughout the year, they could very well repeat as NBA champions. Some questioned their victory last season as the Cavs were without Irving and Kevin Love. This time the Warriors get a chance to prove that their NBA championship from a year ago was not a fluke in the court of public opinion as both players are healthy.
To quote famous boxing ring announcer Michael Buffer: “For the thousands in attendance and the millions watching at home, let’s get ready to rummmmmmmmmmmmbleeeeeeeeeee!”