The Golden State Warriors knew that their pursuit of a record-setting NBA season could blow up in their faces. Steve Kerr tried to warn them all season long, but his players insisted. They wanted 73 wins; after all, how many chances do you get to be the best team in basketball history?
If they don’t win the championship, though, the Warriors will have relinquished their claim to that title in the blink of an eye. Best regular season ever? Sure, as long as you don’t believe the league has become a watered-down shell of its former glory. Best team ever? Not a chance.
And it’s their own fault. The Warriors look like a team that’s completely out of gas — because they are.
Had the Warriors been smart, they would have pulled back. They would have realized that going all-out in every game was a recipe for disaster, especially coming off of last year’s championship run. We underestimate the cumulative weight that builds up when a team goes deep into the postseason year after year. Golden State has essentially played two-and-a-half seasons since the start of the 2014-15 campaign, and they’re feeling the effects.
That fatigue is manifesting itself not in a physical weariness, but in astroundingly awful decision-making. The Warriors have always been a little loose with the ball, risking turnovers for the sake of high-value shots. In the postseason, they’re committing all those same turnovers and more without any of the upside. None of their decisions make sense. The team is collectively operating on the same mental level as a college freshman on a three-day bender after being homeschooled for his entire life.
It’s not just about being tired, though. The Warriors had actual basketball problems that they completely ignored because they seemed so damn good. Everything this team had went into chasing 73. Meanwhile, their defense was slowly unraveling all season, a fact that was glossed over because of the pageantry of this season. In 2014-15, Golden State complemented its ridiculous offense with the best defense in the league. More than being lucky with injuries or any other lame excuse, that’s why the so decisively won the title.
This year, the Warriors were still in the top 10 on that end of the floor — tied for sixth, to be specific — and that seemed fine. So long as they could keep up that ranking, everything was supposed to work out.
Instead, the Thunder are exposing all the flaws Golden State tried to patch over with history. Golden State players are gambling for steals, not rotating to help each other in time, and confused as to where they should be. This version of the Warriors is starting to look like the Houston Rockets team Golden State vanquished last year — an impressive regular-season squad that doesn’t have what it takes to win a title.
The Warriors aren’t done yet, of course. But it certainly doesn’t look like they have anything left to throw at the Thunder. And they have no one to blame but themselves.