Is there any doubt that the Golden State Warriors can win the 2019 NBA Championship even without Kevin Durant?
Some media pundits expressed doom and gloom when Durant injured his calf in Game 5 of Golden State’s series with the Houston Rockets. Though Durant is obviously a great player, this was inexplicable. Golden State had proved its championship pedigree long before Durant even joined the franchise. Making three-pointers and playing great defense works, no matter who’s doing it!
- Making Three-Pointers: Golden State was a gorgeous 17 of 33 (51.5%) from behind the arc Tuesday night in its 116-94 rout of Portland as 7-point favorites. The Splash Brothers still know how to drain treys. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combined go to 12 of 24 themselves. This after the Warriors were 16 of 38 (42.1%) in their second-round series finale at Houston. Curry and Thompson were 11 of 24 that night.
Ball movement was a critical part of Golden State’s offensive attack pre-Durant. The Warriors just went back to doing that again to free up open looks from long range. The offense works “differently” without ball-magnet Durant. But, it still works.
- Playing Great Defense: Many in the media overlooked Golden State’s stellar defense in past seasons because playing at a fast pace created misleadingly high scores. The Warriors excelled at “defensive efficiency,” which is scoring adjusted for pace. This team knows how to disrupt shots and force mistakes.
Tuesday night, the Warriors held Portland to just 42% on two-point attempts (23 of 56), 25% on three-point attempts (7 of 28), while forcing 21 turnovers despite a relatively low pace factor of 95.3.
The Warriors also have a knack for frustrating opposing stars. Tuesday, Damian Lillard of the Trail Blazers was just four of 12 from the floor in 37 minutes, while committing seven turnovers.
Granting, this was peak Golden State…and there’s no guarantee that peak Golden State is going to show up every game. Even during the best of times, the Warriors had a bad habit of taking their foot off the gas when they didn’t feel threatened. Maybe that will make Thursday night’s rematch much more interesting (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET).
Offshore openers for Game 2 went up at Golden State -8 minutes after Tuesday’s blowout ended. Typically, both sharps and squares look to bet the bounce back on Game One losers. That could drive the game-day closer down to 7.5 or less. If that doesn’t happen, it’s a sign that important market influences believe Golden State is in firm control of its own destiny.
For now, Golden State is a bit better than 85% to advance past Portland using no-vigorish series prices, and is currently centered around 67% globally to win the NBA Championship as a betting favorite over the survivor of the Milwaukee/Toronto series because of reports suggesting Durant may be able to return to the court soon.
With or without Durant, Golden State is championship material.