By Golden State standards Bill Lee Jersey
, this season was downright bumpy.
The Warriors won only 58 regular-season games, by far their fewest in this four-year run of excellence. They went 7-10 in their final 17 games of the regular season. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala all got hurt. They needed to win a Game 7 on the road to reach the NBA Finals, and they could have easily lost two of the first three games of this series.
Yet here they are.
Golden State is on the cusp of another NBA championship, holding a 3-0 series lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers going into Game 4 of the finals. The Warriors could be champions again as early as Friday night, and this crown – after experiencing plenty of turbulence this season – would most definitely be one to savor.
”Going into this season, I don’t think anybody could have guessed or predicted the ups and downs and the roller coaster we’ve been on,” Curry said Thursday as the Warriors prepped for the possible clincher. ”So, definitely a different year, just overall, personally with injuries Cheap Durham Smythe Jersey
, as a team with dealing with injuries, dealing with the kind of expectations that have been placed on us from the outside and the noise around us as a team.”
They went 67-15 on the way to the NBA title in 2015, matched that record on the way to another title last season and went 73-9 – the best record in league history – in 2016 only to fall short in the finals against Cleveland. That series, one where the Warriors led 3-1, changed when they couldn’t finish the job while being presented with serious adversity.
This year, there’s been a toughness to go along with the finesse.
They overcame deficits of 17 and 15 points against Houston in the final two games of the Western Conference finals, the second of those on the Rockets‘ home floor. They overcame an 11-point deficit in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against Cleveland, and rallied from 13 points down to beat the Cavaliers in Game 3 on Wednesday.
They needed 27 starting lineups in the regular season, and five so far in the playoffs. But they’re one win away from getting their fingerprints all over another Larry O’Brien Trophy.
”You can never count out a champion, no matter what’s going on in the course of their season,” Cleveland star LeBron James said, lauding the Warriors. ”It’s impossible to do that, because they’re built from a different cloth Ed Dickson Color Rush Jersey
, and I know that firsthand. When you win a championship and you’re around guys for a long period of time, and you know what you’re capable of doing, all you need is to get healthy.
”If you can get healthy and guys are playing at the right level at the same time, then you can feel like you can beat anybody.”
They got healthy.
And they’re about to beat everybody.
They did it the hard way, without question. Houston finished seven games ahead of the Warriors in the regular season, earning the right to be the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs. If the Rockets had Chris Paul for Game 6 or Game 7 of that series, if Paul’s hamstring hadn’t betrayed him at the worst possible time, then the Warriors could very well be on vacation right now.
”Every season is very different,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. ”Every journey is a new one each season. Yet the cumulative effect on multiple journeys adds up, and we have felt that this year. I think it’s been our most inconsistent season. It’s been our most difficult season. But our guys sense the finish line, and they turned it on right from the beginning of the playoffs defensively.”
The finish line is now within sight.
If the Warriors finish this off – no team in NBA history has blown a 3-0 series lead – then all the hiccups of the regular season will be forgotten. There will be a parade in the Bay Area before long, championship rings to hand out and another banner to unfurl on opening night next season, and more free agents likely will take a look at signing with Golden State in an effort to add to their own jewelry collections.
But if things get rocky next season Authentic Josey Jewell Jersey
, the Warriors will also have the experiences from this year to draw upon. In short, not looking their best at times this season might ultimately make them better.
”It’s been a crazy ride,” Curry said. ”So now we’ve just got to finish the job.”
Now that five-time All-Star Anthony Davis has his first taste of a playoff triumph, he sounds eager to see what’s next.
Davis’ Pelicans looked like anything but a shoo-in for the postseason after fellow All-Star DeMarcus Cousins was lost for the season in late January with an Achilles tear. They needed 81 games just to clinch a playoff spot. They ran the table during a pressure-packed final five games of the regular season, climbing to sixth in the Western Conference.
Four games later, New Orleans is on a nine-game winning streak and moving on to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time in 16 seasons since the NBA returned to the city in 2002.
”A lot of people counted us out after the injury to DeMarcus, so this is amazing,” Davis said following Saturday’s series-clinching, 131-123 victory over third-seeded Portland. ”But we have to get ready for the second round.”
The Pelicans appear destined to play second-seeded Golden State in Round 2. The Warriors entered Sunday with a chance to sweep their first-round series against San Antonio.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry figures that facing the defending champs will be no easy task, even if Stephen Curry struggles to come back from his knee injury.
”If it is Golden State, we’re playing the NBA champs and we understand that,” said Gentry, adding that he’s a little amused by hearing his former boss http://www.giantsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-will-hernandez-jersey
, Steve Kerr, talk about the ”turmoil” the Warriors endured this season. ”I don’t think it’s turmoil if you win (58) games.”
The Pelicans would not be the favorites against Golden State. But given how they’ve played lately, another upset bid isn’t entirely out of the question – particularly with Curry’s injury casting doubt on when he’ll return and how effective he’ll be.
New Orleans’ current winning streak included a victory at Golden State. In their first-round series against Portland, the Pelicans proved they could get considerable scoring from players other than Davis when they needed it.
After Davis led the Pelicans with 35 points in Game 1, Holiday scored a team-high 33 in Game 2. When the series shifted to New Orleans for Game 3, forward Nikola Mirotic had a team-high 30 points.
Then in Game 4, a determined Davis and Holiday combined for 88 points, with Davis scoring a franchise playoff-record 47 and Holiday capping his 41-point outing with a clutch 3 and 18-foot jumper in the final minutes.
”Hats off to New Orleans. They played really well,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. ”Their stars put on a show. … They had different people step up at different times.”
Having a veteran guard like Rajon Rondo to run the offense helped.
Pushing the pace, Rondo racked up 53 assists in four games and mixed in his share of slashing layups when defenses over-committed to Davis or Holiday.
”I came here to win a championship. I didn’t come here to beat a team in the first round or the second round,” said the 32-year-old Rondo, who won a title with Boston in 2008. ”My expectations were high coming in, knowing the talent I was playing with.
”We were able to come together as a team that plays for one another. We believe in each other Christian Kirk Color Rush Jersey
,” Rondo continued. ”This is just one check mark of the bigger goal that we have in mind. We are going to try to get a couple of days of rest and come back locked in and ready to go.”
When the final horn sounded on the Blazers’ season, Portland star guard Damian Lillard exchanged a long hug with Davis. Afterward, Lillard discussed his appreciation for the Pelicans star, who needed six seasons to experience his first playoff victory with New Orleans, and who didn’t even get to participate in the playoffs in four of his first five years in the NBA.
”He’s had it hard. I couldn’t imagine what it’s like going all those years not being able to compete in the postseason when you’re that level of player,” Lillard said. ”I congratulate him. … You’ve got to give credit where it’s due. I give him credit for his performance and their team. And he’s also a great dude. So, you can’t be mad at him.”
Perhaps even the Pelicans next-round opponents will be happy for Davis. But one can bet they won’t be all that happy to have to play against him.