Warriors Benefit from Injuries in Postseason
Yes, you read that headline right; the Golden State Warriors leveraged injuries to increase the odds they’ll hoist another championship trophy. Golden State comes into the 2016-2017 NBA Championship series 67-15 in the regular season and 12-0 in the postseason; now, factor in that Kevin Durant didn’t play every one of those games while nursing a Grade 2 MCL sprain and a tibial bone bruise to his left knee. Those stats also are a menacing prospect for any opposing team to combat in a best of seven series in the playoffs.
How did the Warriors benefit from Durant’s absence?
The loss of Kevin Durant in the last legs of the regular season readied an already stacked team to handle adversity without the four-time scoring champ. Steph Curry & Co stumbled initially following Durant’s absence on the hardwood, going 2-5 in their first seven games without KD but managed to secure the top spot in the West Coast Conference, out-pacing the San Antonio Spurs atop the standings. (FoxSports)
The Dubs had to play without the sharp shooting trigger and leaned on the original trifecta, buttressed by a bench that rivals most starting lineups in the league. Depth combined with experience and focus is what ferried the Warriors through what many detractors hoped would derail the 2015 NBA Champs.
Spurs doomed without Kawhi
If you screamed foul (flagrant even) at the television when Zaza Pachulia slid under the jump shot of Kawhi Leonard in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals you weren’t alone. San Antonio was up by 23 points when the star small forward limped off the floor. The rest is history (and not in Gregg Popovich's favor); the Splash Brothers swept the Alamo City’s beloved team in a series of heartbreaking losses, demoralizing a team long regarded as one of the most consistent franchises on the west coast.
Everyone couldn’t help but wonder what if (Kawhi was healthy)?
ESPN2 First Take commentator Skip Bayless tweeted, “as a longtime Spurs fan, that was as sad a game as I have ever watched them play. They would’ve been in the Finals with a healthy Kawhi,” and Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant lamented the short-handed Spurs chances of overcoming the Warriors without Leonard in the lineup, tweeting “San Antonio missing some key players…they really need the silent assassin kawhi leonard.”
The Spurs hopes to return to the NBA Finals was shattered the moment Kawhi went down. Now, the Warriors are poised to contend for a second championship as they await the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals.