Let’s be honest, injuries have always played a major role in a Golden State playoff run.
Irony can be a comedian.
The Golden State Warriors are the latest, and one of the best, dynasties in NBA history. But despite how great the Warriors have been the last five seasons, history will always remember that they’ve faced quite a few teams who weren’t at full strength, due to injury, on their historic run.
And although the Warriors have been just fine without DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant, and even a hobbled Andre Iguodala, you can’t help but wonder just how much these injuries could potentially affect the Warriors during the NBA Finals.
“I would say we feel like he is going to be back at some point during the series,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr about Durant on Thursday. “That’s our thought. That’s our gut. Again, there is nothing clear-cut. We leave it up in the air, [he] keeps doing what he’s doing and we hope for the best.”
The Warriors’ best player has been out since Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals with a calf injury and still hasn’t been cleared for on-court work.
“It’s just how he responds,” Kerr explained. “There has never been a point in this process where we’ve been able to say he is going to play on such-and-such date. There still isn’t. Just keep going, keep moving forward.”
Thursday was also the same day that Cousins participated in his first full practice since tearing his left quadriceps in Game 2 of the first round against the LA Clippers. Cousins availability is said to be “up in the air” for Game 1 of the Finals, while Iguodala is expected to be back after missing the Warriors last game against Portland.
And since irony is a joker, how crazy would it be if injuries wound up being the reason why the Warriors don’t win it all?
Coming into this season, since their run started back in 2015, of the 16 playoff series the Warriors had been in, 10 of their opponents were down at least one starter. Until this day, the 2016 postseason is still the only time in which every team Golden State has come up against has had all of their starters healthy.
Funny thing is, that’s also the same season in which they set the regular-season win record by going 73-9 and lost in the Finals after blowing a 3-1 lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers, despite coming back from a 3-1 deficit to the Oklahoma City Thunder the series prior.
In 2015, the Warriors faced the New Orleans Pelicans, who were without Jrue Holiday, the Memphis Grizzlies who were missing Mike Conley Jr., a Houston Rockets team that didn’t have Patrick Beverley, and a Cavs team that was without Kevin Love and would wind up losing Kyrie Irving in Game 1 of the Finals.
In 2017, Golden State squared off against a Portland team that was without center Jusuf Nurkic, the Utah Jazz who were missing starting point guard George Hill, and the Spurs who lost Kawhi Leonard in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
In 2018, the Pelicans didn’t have Cousins, while the Spurs were without Leonard again, and then the Rockets lost Chris Paul in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.
And this year the Trail Blazers got swept without having Nurkic once again.
“In my mind, this was a shot for us to win it all,” said Damian Lillard to Bleacher Report. “I thought we could have beaten the Warriors. If we had Nurkic, it would be a completely different situation.”
In Golden State’s five games without Durant on the floor, Draymond Green has stepped up to lead the charge for the Warriors while averaging 14.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 8.4 assists a game.
“I’ve just gotta keep the same mindset I’ve had when Kevin’s out,” Green said. “Just continue to stay aggressive. Continue to push the pace. Try to make plays for everybody. Not going to be easy, as we know. Nonetheless, we’re a very confident group in whoever we got out there. We feel like we can win.”
Green’s play is a reminder of how good the Warriors were before Durant and Cousins ever showed up in Oakland, as Green reminded Durant of that back in November.
“We don’t need you. We won without you. Leave,” Green reportedly shouted at Durant during a postgame argument after losing to the Clippers.
As I said, irony is a comedian.
With one series left, the Warriors control their own destiny. And it will be one that will be determined by how theirs was created in the first place; contingent upon who is, and isn’t, available to play.