With the regular season now over, all attention is now on the playoffs and who could be looking at a place in the NBA finals. It certainly hasn’t been business as usual for the Golden State Warriors this time around, with a second place finish in a Western Conference dominated by the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets have come from nowhere to secure the Conference title, leaving the Warriors short of picking up a 4th consecutive Western win. However, there’s still plenty left to play for, and the Warriors will be looking to make up for a lack of regular season trophies with the chance to make it 3 NBA titles out of 4 attempts.
There are a few factors that could stop the Warriors from achieving back-to-backs. In a season that hasn’t been plain sailing, there have been a few mishaps and a few more that could rock the boat. Here are the 5 biggest factors that could end up playing a huge part in the success (or failure) for the Warriors this year.
The 2015-15 MVP and standout player for the Warriors have certainly played a big part in getting the Warriors to the finals over the last 3 seasons. The Point Guard signed a new Supermax contract last July and has proven yet again that he’s worth the cash. Despite an early season ejection over a thrown mouthpiece, he went on to achieve milestones of becoming the fastest player to achieve 2,000 career three-pointers and 5,000 career points, and the first player in NBA history to manage over 200 three-pointers in 6 consecutive seasons.
The only problem that Curry now faces is a recurring ankle injury, which was aggravated again in December. Despite a lack of injury, Curry was ruled out for two weeks, missing key games in the process. He is now set to miss the first game at a minimum, and if this ankle injury persists during the playoffs, the Warriors will be left without their key point scorer hence even though they are currently the 5/4 favorites to win, making his appearances absolutely key to a title defense.
Luckily, the Warrior’s have an equally great player in Kevin to prop up the team’s point scoring abilities. Durant was last year’s MVP, and with 1,792 points scored so far this season, he’ll certainly be seen as the talisman to replace Stephen Curry is he can’t get over his ankle problem before game 2.
He can definitely do the business on the court, but if the pressure of having to carry the team rests with him, then the Warrior’s could face a challenge if a team like the Rockets simply close down his show.
The Houston Rockets
The Rockets have absolutely dominated the regular season, beating the Warriors twice and winning an incredible 65 games across the season. James Harden looks like he’ll be MVP at the end of the year and Mike D’Antoni’s side have certainly developed a strategy that has allowed them to win games by considerable margins, even against tough oppositions, by a few points in some cases.
For example, the Warriors only lost by a single point in their first meeting, but that’s enough for a team like the Rockets, who, by rights, shouldn’t be where they are right now. With the great team and individual performances, the Rockets are by far the biggest challenge that the Warriors will face going into the playoffs. As long as they can get into the second round, of course.
Let’s face it, the Warriors aren’t exploring new territory here. After winning the NBA Championship last year, coming close the year before, and winning in 14/15, they’ve got plenty of experience of the pressure, excitement, highs and lows and what’s required in the very different playoff games. This will certainly be their edge of teams like the rockets, and whoever they will face from the Eastern Conference unless it’s the Cavaliers, won’t have experience as recent as theirs when it comes to the biggest games of the season.
For us, we’re pretty certain that the Warrior’s have what it takes to defend their crown. With players like Kevin Durant ready to pick up Curry’s reigns and other fantastic four stars in Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the Warriors just have too much firepower to lay down and let someone like the Rockets run away with a title. Let’s just see if the team doctors can work their magic on Stephen Curry’s ankle.