Image courtsey of The Mercury News. This image shows DeMarcus Cousins having just fell during the same.
Written by Griffen Powers
The NBA Conference Finals have arrived, and all eyes are on the defending champion Golden State Warriors, with nearly every NBA fan feverishly anticipating their unlikely downfall. Since former MVP Kevin Durant’s infamous move in the summer of 2016, the Warriors have cruised to two straight titles, with seemingly no end to the domination in sight. Not to mention, Golden State inconceivably nabbed all-NBA center DeMarcus Cousins with a one-year deal worth $5.3 million in free agency this summer, giving them what is likely the most talented starting five in NBA history. Needless to say, non-Warriors fans were hopeless, and the results of the upcoming season were presumably already determined. However, with Durant and Klay Thompson set to be free agents this summer, the potential of a Golden State collapse has grown more likely.
Golden State’s playoff road has been far more difficult than expected. In their first round series against the 8th-seeded LA Clippers, Cousins suffered a torn left quadriceps muscle in Game 2, and the Warriors were taken to six games before closing out the series. The problems continued in the next round against the Houston Rockets, when in Game 5, with the series tied 2-2, Durant suffered a strained right calf, an injury which has kept him off the court indefinitely. Despite this, the Warriors pulled out a close victory in Game 5, and the closed the series out in Houston in Game 6 due to 4th quarter heroics by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Golden State’s conference finals matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers has proven to be their least difficult. As I’m writing this, the Warriors hold a 3-0 series lead on Portland, though I’m not ready to give up on the Blazers getting a game. While another Golden State finals appearance is a practical certainty at this point, they will likely face their toughest test yet in the Eastern Conference champion. The Milwaukee Bucks, who had the best record in the league behind the effort of likely MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, are currently up 2-1 on the Toronto Raptors. The Bucks took the first two games in Milwaukee, and Toronto responded with their backs against the wall with a 2OT win in Game 3. Both teams would be very intriguing to see in the Finals, and should be more formidable suitors to take down Golden State than the 2017 and 2018 Cavaliers. The Bucks have dominated both their playoff opponents so far, while Toronto has shown plenty of promise with their depth of weapons like Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, and Kyle Lowry, among others.
The Warriors, expected to be without Durant and Cousins, should have a competitive and entertaining Finals series with either team, and Durant and Thompson’s free agency will loom larger if Golden State struggles. If the Warriors fall short of a 3-peat, and the dynasty crumbles this summer, NBA fans can finally breathe a sigh of relief. However, we all know that the safe bet is that things will work out for the Warriors, as they always do. The Warriors don’t lose, and I’ve been on the wrong side of history too many times to say that they will. But we all love to let our imaginations run wild.