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Dubs poised to repeat

Golden State Warriors and Cleveland have faced off in the last three NBA Finals with the Warriors claiming the crown in 2015 and 2017. The Cavaliers came back from a 1-3 deficit to clinch the 2016 series but were nowhere near threatening form in bowing to the Dubs in five games last season.

Experts are predicting another Golden State romp this campaign. Sports Illustrated said there will be another Warriors-Cavaliers showdown in the Finals with LeBron James taking it again on the chin. LeBron has played in the last seven Finals, winning thrice. But The Chosen One was knocked out in three of the last four. Slam Magazine editor Adam Figman said he doesn’t expect the Dubs to shoot for 73 plus wins – “they’ve hopefully learned why attempting such a feat is a pretty terrible idea – but they’ll play more together, more as a unit … which is to say, more unbeatable.” Figman’s prognosis hints of another Warriors pennant.

Lindy’s Sports predicted a Golden State runaway with LeBron taking MVP honors as if to say the Warriors succeed as a team and don’t rely on individual heroics. Street and Smith’s NBA Preview concurred and chose Golden State to repeat over Cleveland in the Last Dance.

Over the last three regular seasons, Golden State compiled a total record of 207-39, a winning clip of 84.1 percent. In 2016, the Dubs posted the highest win-loss record in NBA history, 73-9, but ironically, lost to the Cavs in the Finals that season. The previous mark was 72-10 registered by the Chicago Bulls, featuring Michael Jordan, in 1996. 

Before yesterday’s games, Golden State and Houston led the Western Conference with identical 7-3 records. Both teams have lost twice at home and once on the road. The Warriors’ losses were to the Rockets by a point, Memphis by 10 and Detroit by eight. Golden State rebounded to win its last three games on the road over the Los Angeles Clippers by 28, San Antonio by 20 and Denver by 19. 

Golden State coach Steve Kerr has retained the nucleus of last season’s cast. Held over were Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Igoudala, JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia, Shaun Livingston, David West, Patrick McCaw and Damian Jones. The newcomers are 32-year-old, 10-year veteran Nick (Swaggy P) Young, 6-9 Kevin Looney (Young’s cousin), 6-8 rookie Jordan Bell, 29-year-old, 8-year veteran Omri Casspi of Israel and 6-10 rookie Chris Boucher.

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Expected to crowd the Dubs in the race for the Western Conference crown are Houston, Oklahoma City and Minnesota. The Rockets got a boost with the addition of Chris Paul to join James Harden in the backcourt. OKC now has its own version of a Big Three with Melo Anthony, Paul George and Russell Westbrook. Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau is a class act and his pack of Timberwolves includes holdovers Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins and offseason recruits Jimmy Butler, Jamal Crawford, Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague. San Antonio will always be a threat because of coach Gregg Popovich but an aging lineup, weighed down by Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Pau Gasol, could be a liability down the stretch. The Clippers and Lakers of Los Angeles will provide excitement in their own drive for the playoffs but they’re far from frightening.

What makes Golden State such a prohibitive favorite is the Dubs’ commitment to teamwork. They genuinely like to work together. Take Durant’s sacrifice as a case in point. KD agreed to a substantial cut in pay this year so the Warriors could sign returning free agents and add a few more pieces to assemble a stronger cast. Durant earned $26.5 Million last season and could’ve negotiated a 20 percent increase to $31.8 Million this year. But Durant decided to take in even less than the previous season at $25 Million. He has a player option for next season at $26.3 Million. His sacrifice cleared the way for the Warriors to re-sign Curry, Igoudala, West and Livingston. Curry was the beneficiary of a windfall as he signed a five-year $201.2 Million deal. That kind of unselfishness off the court rubs off on the court.

Sports Illustrated pointed out that 91.4 percent of Golden State’s offense from last year is back so there’s no stepping back. Kerr’s ability to play small with Green at center or big with Pachulia in the middle is a key factor in dictating matchups where the Dubs are at an advantage. “(Kerr) knows exactly what buttons to push, when to push them and when to just sit back and watch it all wash over the rest of the league like a tsunami,” said Street and Smith’s. The Dubs are lethal on offense and unforgiving on defense, a combination that puts Golden State in a position to build a dynasty because of their age (average is 27.8 years), depth and versatility.  Expect a long reign with the Dubs.

 

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