PORTLAND, Ore. — What do you get when the best team in the NBA is also the toughest, and perhaps the hungriest? Answer: the Golden State Warriors.
Forget for a moment about the extraordinary level of talent in the Warriors squad, that they have hellacious scoring ability and skills that can’t be taught, with six current or former All-Stars on their roster.
The real reason that Golden State will compete for a third straight title is because the Warriors play with all the experience that their journey of achievement has provided, yet with the hunger of a squad that has won nothing and is still chasing its first hardware.
There have been outstanding teams before, teams that won and repeated and three-peated and earned the tag of being a dynasty. Since 1966, though, there hadn’t been any that had managed to reach the ultimate hurdle of NBA excellence, the Finals, five straight times. At least, not until the Warriors swept the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday to entrench their spot in history that much deeper.
“I hope it doesn’t go unnoticed or underrated,” head coach Steve Kerr said after his team’s 119-117 overtime win. “It hasn’t been done (since then) for a reason, it is really, really difficult. I can’t say enough about the competitive desire and the group of the players and the culture they have built together.
“The group have a fiber to them. When guys go down they find a way to come together and compete and win. I just think the experience of winning titles helps you in these moments.”
Warriors reach Finals: Sweep Trail Blazers to win West again
Golden State's run: By the numbers
The nature of things dictates that while this series won’t be forgotten, it will dim in the memory in fairly short time. The longer a series goes the more it gets remembered; seven-game epics are the ones that get regaled time and again and shape legacies. Even this year’s conference semifinal against the Houston Rockets, which went six, may be seen as the defining portion of Golden State’s run towards another dose of June basketball.
Yet of all the postseason triumphs this Warriors group have had, this one should rank as high as any. The list of obstacles was high to begin with, and kept mounting. No Kevin Durant, sidelined with calf trouble. No DeMarcus Cousins. For Game 4, no Andre Iguodala, the team’s best defender. Stephen Curry entering the series coming off miserable form. Falling behind by double digits in three straight games.
To overcome all that, and to win four straight without a blip, should defy belief. The reason it doesn’t is because we have become accustomed to the Warriors making extremely difficult feats seem ordinary.
Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green celebrates with guard Klay Thompson after making a 3-pointer in overtime of Game 4. (Photo: Jaime Valdez, USA TODAY Sports)
“They have a confidence about them,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “They feel they are never out of a game. They have the experience and they have done it before. They know how to make things difficult for opponents. They help each other, they trust each other. They have been rewarded year after year with that style of play, there is a reason to trust it.”
The Warriors have ultimate belief in themselves and what they are doing. It showed on Monday, all through the late comeback that overturned a hugely spirited Portland performance, into the fourth quarter and the frenetic overtime period. It manifests in multiple ways but the biggest of all is a refusal to panic. Nothing summed it up more than when, amid outstanding defense from the home team, an apparently trapped Curry found Draymond Green for an unflinching three in the final minute of overtime.
DRAYMOND BURIES THE CLUTCH TRIPLE! #StrengthInNumbers 119#RipCity 117
2.5 to go in OT on @ESPNNBApic.twitter.com/88SNGeMkVa
If there was a guaranteed formula for having such a level of success then everyone would do it, but surely part of the process has been that the Warriors have allowed the momentum of their prior success to spur them to even more of it.
“It has just felt like one big old season for the last five years,” Klay Thompson said. “And we wouldn’t have it any other way. Not a lot of guys get to go to one Finals, let alone five straight.”
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