Warriors on Verge of 6th Finals Appearance in Last 8 Years

The ferocious Andrew Wiggins dunk right in Luka’s face was the moment the series ended.

It was an 8 point game with about 6:40 to play, but that dunk ended the series. Goodnight.

And now the Warriors are on the verge of their 6th Finals trip since 2015.

The NBA Finals since 2015:

  • 2015: Warriors defeat Cavs 4-2
  • 2016: Cavs defeat Warriors 4-3
  • 2017: Warriors defeat Cavs 4-1
  • 2018: Warriors defeat Cavs 4-0
  • 2019: Raptors defeat Warriors 4-2
  • 2020: Lakers defeat Heat 4-2
  • 2021: Bucks defeat Suns 4-2

It’s a wrap. The West belongs to the Warriors once again.

And they’ll most certainly be favored to beat whomever comes out of the East, too. The Celtics are good, but they’re prone to letdown games and are very inexperienced compared to the Warriors.

At this point, we just have to give the Warriors the credit where it’s due: they are simply the premier franchise in the NBA and have been for nearly a decade now.

They are the new Spurs, or the Patriots of the NBA. Their system is superior to everyone else’s. They’re just better than everyone else.

It’s not just their three point shooting, either. Yes, they do rank third in these playoffs with a 37.9% team 3 point shooting average (behind only the Nets, who played 4 games, and the Wolves, who played 6 games), they also rank #1 in the playoffs in 2 point shooting percentage–57.5%.

And outside of that one game against Memphis in the second round, the Warriors have been excellent on defense in the playoffs thus far. They’re second in the playoffs in Net Rating at +6.3, which is a team’s offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) minus its defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions). The only team ahead of them is the Heat at +7.4.

The Warriors’ defense is one of the most underrated aspects of not only this year’s squad but their entire dynasty run. They ranked #1 in the entire NBA in Defensive Rating in the regular season this year–tied with the Celtics.

In fact, in their 5 previous Finals runs, they’ve pretty much always been strong on defense:

  • 2015: #1 in the NBA in DRating, 101.4
  • 2016: #6 in DRating, 103.8
  • 2017: #2 in DRating, 104.0
  • 2018: #11 in DRating, 107.6
  • 2019: #13 in DRating, 109.5
  • 2022: t-#1 in DRating, 106.9

Even last year, 2021, when they missed the playoffs with Klay out and Jordan Poole not yet having emerged, they ranked 5th in the league in DRating.

Certainly their regular season defense started to taper off in 2018 and 2019. This was back when they had KD, and they were so good that they could just coast through the regular season.

But they turned it back on for the playoffs: in 2018, they had the #1 ranked defense in the playoffs. In 2019, it was just 10th ranked in the playoffs.

This is why I say the Warriors are the new Spurs and the best system in the NBA: because not only have they revolutionized the sport offensively, they also play elite defense consistently. People never talk about how good they are on defense–they think the Warriors are just flashy three point shooters.

Beyond their shooting and defense, though, is their ball movement. If you’ve watched any Warriors games over the past 8 years, then you know: nobody does it better. It’s just incredible. They’re the best passing team in the league.

This play from the regular season is Exhibit A: classic Warriors basketball.

5 passes, a wide open look from three, and then, the cherry on top, Juan Toscano-Anderson (who doesn’t even play in the playoffs) is heads-up, crashes the paint and slams home the put-back.

The Warriors somehow rank 4th in these playoffs in offensive rebounding percentage, too, after ranking 18th in the regular season.

The Warriors really do play basketball the right way. Steph’s flashiness and shimmying might give people the wrong idea about them, and I think that’s a big reason people hate them so much–they think the Warriors don’t play the right way. But they absolutely do. They’re not just three point shooters. They play defense, they rebound, they hustle for loose balls, they pass–again, they’re the new Spurs.

You can certainly nitpick their resume, both this year and in the past.

Would they have won the 2015 Finals if Kyrie and Kevin Love were healthy? Probably not.

Did they choke away a 3-1 lead in the Finals in 2016? Yes, they did.

Did they beg KD to join them and form an unstoppable behemoth after choking in 2016, and in many people’s view ruin the NBA for several years? Yes, they did.

If you hate the Warriors for these reasons, I’m not going to argue with you. Those are all very valid reasons to dislike them.

And even this year, they’ve faced the wildly overmatched Nuggets who were missing their second and third best players. Then they faced the young and immature Grizzlies who were missing Ja Morant for much of that series.

And I’m sure people are going to say the Warriors got lucky that they didn’t have face the Suns.

But to the people who say the Warriors lucked out by avoiding the Suns this year: that’s utterly ridiculous. What, so if only the Suns hadn’t pulled off the biggest Game 7 choke job in NBA history, then they’d be beating the Warriors right now or something? No, that’s not how it works.

This is just like the idiots who still to this day insist that if the Clippers hadn’t blown the 3-1 lead to the Nuggets in the bubble, then the Clippers would’ve beaten the Lakers in the next round. No, they wouldn’t have. The Clippers got massively exposed by the Nuggets. They couldn’t even make it to the Conference Finals to get exposed by the Lakers because they got exposed beforehand.

People were massively wrong about the Clippers in 2020. They just weren’t as good as people thought they were, and they would have been embarrassed by the Lakers if they had won that Denver series.

Similarly, this year, the Suns were exposed by the Mavericks. The Suns choked to the Mavericks because the Suns were frauds–they were not true title contenders.

People were just wrong about the Suns. The Suns couldn’t handle the Mavericks while the Warriors are making short work of the Mavericks, and people really want to say the Suns would’ve given the Warriors a better series?

No way.

The Warriors would be beating the Suns right now. It’s just the truth.

Now, I could see an argument to be made that the Warriors were fortunate that the Lakers and Clippers both had injury-plagued seasons this year. If the Clippers were fully healthy all year, then maybe the Clippers would be here right now against the Warriors.

But the Lakers, in addition to their injuries, simply had an irreparably flawed roster this season. Only a retooled and rebuilt Lakers roster that looks more like the 2020 Championship squad would pose a real threat to these Warriors. In other words, a Lakers team that does not currently exist.

No, the Warriors are clearly the best team in the Western Conference this year. Maybe next year the Clippers or Lakers will take down the Warriors, but there was no scenario this year where the Clippers or Lakers were beating these Warriors.

Like I said earlier, there are a lot of valid reasons to nitpick this Warriors team. Yes, many of their fans are annoying and delusional. Many of them were probably Lakers fans prior to 2015 and still have those Kobe jerseys in the back of their closets.

But I think this year proves the Warriors are legit. They don’t have KD and they’re still winning. They still have to seal the deal in the Finals of course, but a lot of people (including myself) doubted that they could even get back after the past two years.

Now let’s move on to the Mavs.

Dallas is a good team. The Warriors are just making this look easy. The Warriors are way deeper, play good defense, and have way more veteran playoff experience than these young, upstart Mavs.

Luka somehow kept last night’s game close despite Reggie Bullock and Maxi Kleber shooting a combined 0-15 from the floor. 0-15!!!

But even despite those two having horrible games, the three point shooting disparity last night wasn’t too crazy: the Warriors hit 11-32 (34.4%) compared to Dallas’ 13-45 (28.9%). Sure, Dallas took 13 more threes but only made 2 more of them than the Warriors did, and that hurts. If Kleber and Bullock would’ve just hit three combined between themselves, Dallas would’ve been shooting a league average-ish 35.5% from deep, and they also lost the game by 9.

The real real difference was that the Warriors grabbed 14 offensive rebounds to the Mavs’ 7. Total rebounding was a lopsided 47-33 in favor of Golden State.

This is “small ball” Golden State we’re talking about. The Warriors’ tallest player is 6’9″ Kevon Looney, and he grabbed 12 rebounds. Andrew Wiggins had 11 including 6 offensive rebounds.

I know Dallas isn’t the biggest team in the league, but they’re bigger than Golden State is. For Dallas to get outrebounded this badly by a smaller team is just unacceptable. Maybe they should have put in Boban. I know he can’t move but he’s like, what, 7’4″? Just plant him under the rim!

In all seriousness, I think the culprit here has to be conditioning. What else explains such a massive rebounding disparity? I think it comes down to effort and hustle, and Dallas just didn’t have it. I really think that after two long series, the Mavs are pretty much gassed. This is a Dallas team that hadn’t been out of the first round since their Dirk title run in 2011–obviously nobody from that team is still on the team today. The previous two years, the Mavs have been first round exits. They have no experience going this far in the playoffs.

Luka, while he did have a great game last night (40 points, 11 rebounds, 11-23 shooting, only 3 TOs), is probably just tired at this point. Also, in fairness to him, I don’t know what more he could’ve done. He only had 3 assists, but I’m sure that’s because his teammates were just bricking open looks.

And that’s another reason I think Dallas is just gassed: missing so many open looks. According to Stat Muse, the Mavs are shooting just 32% on OPEN threes in this series against the Warriors, and that pretty much tells the story:

Reggie Bullock and Maxi Kleber are not this bad. There has to be some other explanation. Maybe they have the yips because they’ve never been this far in the playoffs.

Or maybe they’re just tired as hell.

I really don’t have the answers. We’re talking about open looks here, not contested threes.

Whatever the reason, the Mavs are clearly not ready for this stage. They’re not ready to beat a team like the Warriors. And that’s okay. Luka is only 23. They will be back.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s