Just three years removed from being unceremoniously kicked out of the NBA’s throne room, the Golden State Warriors are once again on top of the basketball world! Led by this era’s version of the Big 3 in Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green; and backed up by a solid roster which include the under-appreciated All-Star Andrew Wiggins, that upcoming net-swisher Jordan Poole, and the venerable former Finals MVP Andre Igoudala; the Warriors would navigate this year’s playoffs with such flare and confidence, even allowing themselves some slack in losing by a whopping score of 134 – 95 in its 2nd round playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies, despite the absence of Grizzlies’ top gun, Ja Morant. But when the Warriors were serious with winning, they could likewise unleash a defense oh-so-mean, and they could mow down everyone mercilessly with their uncanny ability to fire a deadly shooting barrage coming from all angles.
The Warriors had landed a measly 3rd in the Western Conference regular season, behind last year’s powerhouse Conference Champs Phoenix Suns, and the young, scrappy Griz of Memphis. And then there was the upcoming and rapidly-maturing Dallas Mavs breathing down their necks as well. But truth to tell, these Warriors were just pacing themselves, as they could easily morph into a different team come the playoffs. (Pls read: To Arms, To Arms, The Warriors are Coming!!! written last Nov 2021.)
The Warriors upended the Nicola Jokic- led Denver Nuggets 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs. They dazzled the Nuggets with their crazy speed. Against the Grizzlies in the 2nd round, they needed to adjust their defensive game midway in the series when Ja Morant fell injured in Game 3. Winning 4-2, they allowed the Griz a bit of self-respect, giving them a blowout home win before bundling them off in Game 6 in San Francisco. Finally, against the Luka Doncic-led Mavs in the Conference Finals and the Jayson and Jaylen duo of Boston in the NBA Finals, the Warriors’ true game was in full display. This Warriors squad was not just the top offensive machine, they also had the 2nd ranked defense in th league.
And if this team follows its trajectory, it could be in the running for the next 2 to 4 years, an amazing feat in this age of salary caps, player empowerment and consequently, dizzying player transfers. The Warriors are this era’s dominant dynasty, comparable only to the likes of the Russell-led Celtics in the 70s, the Jordanesque Chicago Bulls in the 90s, and the doggedly-determined Duncan-powered San Antonio Spurs at the turn of the century.
So what is it that makes the Dubs tick?
Obviously, there’s the skill. They have future Hall of Famers Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and now, they add up buzzer-beater specialist Jordan Poole in the elite core of sharpshooters in the league. And with All-Star Andrew Wiggins, former All-Stars Draymond Green and Andre Igoudala; this is a team that is already locked and loaded in the offense.
And then there’s depth. The Warriors brought in the likes of that Pocket Glove, Gary Payton II; plus 2-way players Kevon Looney, Otto Porter Jr, and that young Draymond protege in Jonathan Kuminga. This is a team that’s deeper than deep. And we haven’t even mentioned the injured top draft choice James Wiseman, who – once fully recovered – will add yet another dimension in their already lethal offensive game. Hence, even when the Big 3 is not delivering, they still have a great support cast that is just a call away.
With depth of course, comes speed. With fresh legs available all the time, there was simply no way their opponents could outrun them. The Warriors’ small ball was perpetually swarming and switching and swinging, causing the Celtics into numerous errors. And this always led to their patented strong and quick transition offense.
And then there’s leadership. Steph Curry’s on and off-court leadership had a calming effect on the team. It must not have been easy for Steph to swallow the pill of having Kevin Durant come and join his team, and take the playoff MVP twice. Steph nonetheless demonstrated genuine support for KD. His ability to sacrifice individual glory for the team’s success has produced a positive karma for the team. This has primarily worked to develop the hidden talents and confidence of the likes of Poole, Wiggins, Payton, Porter and Kuminga. Steph is a great example, providing the team an inspiration to excel.
Finally, there’s that thing called championship experience. The playoffs are an entirely different animal from the regular season. It seemed to me that when the Celtics found themselves on top in the Finals series 2-1, they were completely surprised with themselves and uncomfortable. It was like a young deer who was suddenly hit by the bright headlights of a speeding car. In awe and unfamiliar with being on top, they didn’t know what to do next. The Celts simply froze. The last 3 games – that merciless sweep administered by the veteran Warriors after they fell behind 1-2 in the Finals – was a testament to that magical championship experience that will always elevate a team’s game. To the Warriors, it just seemed methodical, just another day in the office. That uploaded intangible is championship experience. And it will only manifest itself in the team’s game gradually. It will certainly not happen within days, but for the Celtics, it will in the seasons to come.
The Boston Celtics were the proud dynasty of the 70s. They are also tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the most number of titles ever in the NBA. But these credentials just couldn’t hold off that incoming storm called the Warriors. For in today’s era, it is the Golden State Warriors – with 4 crowns in 8 years – who stand out as the most talented, the most grizzled, the most intelligent, perhaps, even the most lucky.
To the returning champs of the basketball world, my salute!!!
For a closer view, just click on the pics. Cover Photo courtesy of Action Network. Other pics courtesy of ESPN, Covers.com, Sporting News, Hypebeast, Click on Detroit, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, the Los Angles Times, The Indian Express, The Mirror Celtics Blog and Action Network.