OAKLAND, Calif. – Stephen Curry's hair was quite a bit longer when the Golden State Warriors' run of NBA Finals appeared in 2015. His body was quite a bit spryer back then too. But as the basketball world focuses intently on the Warriors' future – with Kevin Durant approaching free agency – Curry and his teammates have been looking very much like the original group that started this dynastic run
"That's when we first learned to play like this, "Curry told ESPN late Tuesday night after scoring 36 points in a 116-94 rout of the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. "
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The Warriors can flow just fine with Durant. They just do not have that.
"Kevin moves well too," Warriors assistant coach Bruce Fraser explained. "But sometimes, he's so good he will not have it."
With Durant sidelined due to a calf injury over the past two and a half games, the Warriors have had to go back to a simpler time. This way they played before Durant changed the NBA landscape in 2016.
The Warriors won the 2015 title playing like this. Then they won a record of 73 regular-season games in the 2015-16 campaign. Curry won the MVP Awards
It was a hell of a run. The Warriors were fun and new and relatable to kids with Curry as their baby-faced assassin. Winning started to change that reputation. But really, it was adding to Durant that turned the Warriors into the bully
The Warriors have never particularly enjoyed being the villain. Their style is joyous, so it hurts their collective soul to find motivation elsewhere.
And with Durant out these last few games, they've been able to recapture what they used to feel like
"You see the morale , like everybody's shoulders are up and smiles, "Curry said. "Just aggressive all over the floor, whether that's setting a screen or swing, swing or cutting hard, all that kind of stuff."
Thirteen Warriors appeared in Tuesday's game , and all 13 had a positive impact when they were on the floor. Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala were plus-16, Green, Jonas Jerebko and Quinn Cook were plus-12, and Curry was plus-10.
After relying on their starters to play nearly 40 minutes a game in the previous series against the Houston Rockets, stealing this many minutes from their bench is critical for the Warriors. They are still loaded with star power, but they are not nearly as deep as previous iterations. So, as they go deeper into the playoffs, and as the injuries to the stars such as Durant and DeMarcus Cousins mount, it's critical not to overload the remaining stars.
When the Warriors play with the flow they found in Game 6 against Rockets, and again Tuesday against a clearly fatigued Portland team, the rising tide lifts everyone
"You have the ability to expand the bench and fill minutes with guys that are obviously able to help us on the floor on both ends, "Curry said. "
Watching that contagion over the past few games has been a nice throwback for those who have lived through this entire run. (19659023) 1 Related
"That was my favorite game since I've owned the team – – other than the championships, "Warriors owner Joe Lacob said of the Game 6 win in Houston. "I always put Oklahoma City, 2016, Game 6. I love that, but this was more of a team victory, so I've actually decided that was my favorite game."
And that feeling, that style of play , continued on Tuesday against the Blazers
"In the Clippers series, the narrative was that [Durant] is the greatest player in the world, this is Kevin's team. The word should be TEAM, "Lacob said. "When we beat LeBron [James]three out of four times. [James] Harden and Houston
" It's team, versus individual. It's team, versus isolation. That's really the story. "