Before the NBA season began, the only variable that could derail the Golden State Warriors from winning the NBA Championship in June were a barrage of injuries. Well, that’s what’s happened to the defending champions, and now we’ll see how the team reacts to adversity.
It was a topic the squad has not had to discuss for the last four years. The Warriors have won two of the last three Larry O’Brien trophies. The year they didn’t win, 2016, they lost in a thrilling Game 7 to the Cleveland Cavaliers led by LeBron James.
Overwhelming Preseason Favorite
The Warriors breezed through the playoffs last season, sweeping all three rounds, including the Western Conference Finals, where they won all but one game against the Cavaliers to reclaim the title.
It looked as if no one had an answer to defeat Golden State, and with the starting five returning, sportsbooks made them a 5/12 pick to defend their title. But then the Houston Rockets, who were 9.5-point road underdogs, defeated the Warriors in their home opener.
Suddenly the team didn’t look invincible. The Warriors lost two more games in October and whispers began to get louder about this team being beatable. But then Golden State rattled off 11 of 13 victories in November. They had an equally productive December, winning 13 of 15.
The team had managed to avoid any serious injuries until mid-March when three of their stars were sidelined. Kevin Durant broke a rib, Klay Thompson fractured his right thumb and Stephen Curry sprained an ankle. Shortly after Curry came back he sprained the medial collateral ligament on his left knee.
Thompson and Durant have returned to the lineup, but Coach Steve Kerr said Curry would miss at least the first round of the playoffs. If the opening set of the postseason began today the Warriors would face the Minnesota Timberwolves. They have beaten them two of three regular-season meetings, but their one loss was March 11 and all of their five starters were in the lineup.
The bench has taken a hit as well. The latest was reserve guard Patrick McGaw, who suffered a back injury in a scary fall on Saturday, and had to be wheeled off the court on a stretcher. He was diagnosed with a lumbar spine contusion and his return is up in the air.
Oddsmakers and gamblers have taken notice of Golden State’s struggles. The team is now 5/4 to win, but the No. 1 team in the Western Conference, the Houston Rockets have moved to a 7/4 pick.
Despite the turmoil, Curry believes the team will return to the NBA Finals. He told Yahoo Sports Wednesday that the team should be at full strength by the end of April.
“Injuries are something I hope we can put in the rear-view mirror as we approach the playoffs,” Curry said. “The Western Conference is tough. It’s hard to win a championship. As easy as we made it look last year, going 16-1 in the playoffs, there’s nothing easy about it.”