It’s only been two games. Is it fair to ask, “what’s wrong with the Warriors?”
Playing without leading scorer and rebounder Kevin Durant, Golden State has dropped two straight games (112-108 at Washington; 94-87 at Chicago). Their 87-point output against the Bulls was the lowest of the season and just the third time they’ve been held in double-digits.
Maybe the Splash Brothers got a little too comfortable letting Durant lead the offense; Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were a combined 8 for 38 from beyond the arc in the setbacks, including 3 of 22 against a Chicago team that’s below average defending the three.
The Warriors now sit just three games up on San Antonio in the West, with two meetings still to come against the Spurs, who have won five straight. No one expects Curry and Thompson to stay so frosty, nor the Warriors to crumble down the stretch. After all, Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green formed the core of the team that won an NBA-record 73 games last year. But falling to the no. 2 seed is a distinct possibility, and that would be massive for two reasons.
First, the Warriors’ home-court advantage is one of the most potent in the league. They’ve lost more than twice as many games on the road (7) than at home (3) this year. Last year, their split was even more pronounced: 39-2 at home versus 34-7 on the road. The Spurs are roughly the same, home and away, this season, but last year went a ridiculous 40-1 in San Antonio. If they meet in the playoffs, whoever holds home-court will have real edge.
Second, finishing as the no. 2 seed would mean the Warriors would likely have to oust both San Antonio and Houston before even getting to the finals, where they’d likely face LeBron and the Cavs for a third straight year. The Western Conference has a serious divide between its top three and the rest of the pack. There’s a decent argument that the Warriors, Spurs, and Rockets are the three best teams in the league, not just the conference. Having to knock out both Houston and San Antonio is a big ask for any team, even Golden State.
Concerns over the Warriors prospects would be a lot lower if anyone knew when Durant was going to be back, and what kind of condition he’ll be in when he does return. The best-case scenario is that he returns from his MCL sprain in four weeks. That’s not likely, though. Six weeks is a more realistic timeline, and that takes us to the end of the regular season. When you look at guys who’ve suffered similar injuries, they rarely return at full speed. They usually need some time to get back to 100-percent, both in terms of endurance and level of play.
So if the Warriors fall to the no. 2 seed and matchup with Houston in the second round, there’s a real chance they’ll be facing James Harden and company with a Kevin Durant look-alike.
How does this affect the 2017 NBA Title odds? Significantly. The Warriors were roughly 50/50 to claim their second championship in three years before KD went down. Their prospects are now about 12-percent lower, with that 12-percent mostly being divvied up between the other three favorites: San Antonio, Houston, and Cleveland.
Here’s the full breakdown.
Golden State Warriors: 13/8 (1/1 pre-KD injury)
Cleveland Cavaliers: 13/4 (7/2)
San Antonio Spurs: 8/1 (23/2)
Houston Rockets: 15/1 (20/1)
Photo credit: GAMEFACE-PHOTOS (flickr)
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