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News From the NBA’s Evil Empire, by Chuck Strom

For those who haven’t been watching the 2017 NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors lead the Cleveland Cavaliers two games to none in the best-of-seven series, and neither of the final scores of Games 1 and 2 were close. Detailed analyses on the proceedings can be found on the Ringer:

https://theringer.com/2017-nba-finals-cleveland-cavaliers-golden-state-warriors-game-1-takeaways-33f69f2b4f63

https://theringer.com/2017-nba-playoffs-finals-game-2-warriors-cavaliers-takeaways-7f860d8d146c

What we are seeing, of course, is the full return on the Warriors’ investment in Kevin Durant during last year’s off-season and remaking their roster to accommodate him. Last year’s Warriors, 73 wins and all, had weaknesses that could be exploited at the right times. This year’s Warriors, apparently, do not. If one or both of the Splash Brothers get cold on the perimeter, or Draymond loses control and gets into foul trouble, no problem. Need someone to guard LeBron to keep him honest? No problem there, either. Durant, more than anyone else playing in the NBA, is ideally suited to fill any offensive or defensive need that the Warriors may have at any given moment, and yet he is less burdened on the Warriors than at any previous point in his career, when he was always tasked with carrying the bulk of the scoring load for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Where one could make a case for the unfairness of it all is that Durant, amazingly enough, has improved since joining the Warriors. Not only did the Warriors steal a scoring superstar from their rivals, but they allowed him to grow into nearly as much of a force on the defensive side of the court, and in these Finals, it has been mentioned more than once that he is doing it all while hardly breaking a sweat.

The Warriors, for all of their dominance so far, have only succeeded in holding serve so far in the series. The true test will come in Cleveland, where LeBron & Co. hope to squeak out a couple of wins before returning to Oakland. They wouldn’t be the first team in the Finals to resurrect themselves at home after looking utterly helpless on the road, but it was hard to see the beaten look of the Cavs after Game 2 and make that prediction. As Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving pointed out in his postgame interview, these are not last year’s Warriors. Not only that, as the stat geeks have suggested, the Warriors have actually left a lot of points on the court so far in the series. They may not have even peaked yet.

Chuck Strom

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