After their Sunday loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Golden State Warriors are two games back in the loss column from the Houston Rockets. Add in the Rockets’ incredible current play, the Warriors’ slew of injuries, and Houston’s tiebreaker, and it seems the race for the first seed has wrapped up.
It’s the first year since 2014 that the Warriors haven’t had the best record in the league. Are the Warriors slipping, and if so, by how much?
This season, the Warriors have had more injury problems than in years past. They’ve also had older players show signs of decline, and persistent issues with focus and intensity. However, we’ve definitely seen this team play as well as ever at its heights.
Like the Cleveland Cavaliers the last few years, the Warriors haven’t had the desire to perform at their optimum level this season. Playing in three full postseasons is tiring, and the Warriors don’t have anything to prove in regular seasons anymore. They’re looking ahead to the postseason at all times.
Honestly, with the Cleveland’s struggles this season, Boston’s inconsistent offense, and Toronto’s lack of superstar talent, the Warriors will probably have a fairly easy matchup against any Eastern Conference challenger in the NBA Finals. But they do have to get there first.
Maybe a Spurs team with Kawhi Leonard, Timberwolves team with Jimmy Butler, or a Thunder team that figures everything out gives the Warriors a little trouble in the West. But clearly, the one challenger that has a great chance to defeat the Dubs is the Rockets.
Led by probable MVP James Harden and all-time great point guard Chris Paul, the Rockets rely on pick-and-rolls, isolation scoring, and a huge number of three point attempts to establish one of the most dangerous offenses of all time. Defensively, Clint Capela and a bunch of switchy, strong defenders could cause the Warriors problems.
We’re still two months away from the Western Conference Finals, and because of the absurdly close playoff race, it’s difficult to envision the final playoff bracket now. But the stage is set, and the Warriors will have to defeat the Rockets without home court advantage. They’ll need to be healthy and locked in. For what it’s worth, I think the odds are decently in their favor.