Golden State Warriors: This Season was Golden State’s All Along

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Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

If this season stayed true to the script past seasons wrote, this section would be spent dealing with the myriad of injuries Golden State was forced to deal with throughout the course of the season. However, this team flipped the script and for the first time in who knows how long, the Warriors’ competition were dealt bad hands while Golden State was sitting pretty with pocket aces.

Let’s begin with Golden State’s injuries. It should not take too long to mention them because this season, they were rare. Sure, Stephen Curry, Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala and a few others missed games here and there, but none of them missed significant time.

The only injury that kept a Warrior out for an extended period of time was David Lee‘s struggle with his left hamstring. He missed the first couple of months of the 2014-2015 season. However, one can easily make a case that this specific injury was a blessing for the Warriors.

With Lee unavailable to play as the regular season rolled around, new head coach Steve Kerr was forced to start Draymond Green in his place. Kerr had made it known that Harrison Barnes was going to start in Iguodala’s spot regardless of injury, but not even Kerr — who made all the right decisions over the course of the season — could have foreseen the benefit starting Green could make instead of the veteran and two-time All Star.

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In short, the only real injury Golden State had to deal with this season ended up helping them in the long run. That alone is a recipe for success, but the Warriors were fortunate on another level, too: many teams lost key contributors, cutting playoff runs short and even eliminating playoff runs altogether.

Heading into the season, the favorites to win the tough Western Conference were the Oklahoma City Thunder and the defending champion San Antonio Spurs. The Thunder had to deal with a plague of injuries to their star players while the Spurs somehow failed to make it out of the first round of the playoffs — but more on that later.

Reigning MVP Kevin Durant played only 27 games this season and his running mate Russell Westbrook missed a month early in the campaign. Westbrook still put up monster numbers, but it was not enough to secure a playoff spot for Oklahoma City. The Thunder’s injuries were more widespread than that, too. In fact, on November 5, Oklahoma City almost ran out of players: Durant, Westbrook, Anthony Morrow, Andre Roberson, and Jeremy Lamb were all unavailable and Perry Jones left the game because of an injury.

Long-time Golden State fans knows what it feels like to run out of players because back in April of 2010, Devean George — one of the Warriors’ last five healthy and able players — fouled out in the fourth quarter, leaving Don Nelson to make do with even less (as if that was possible). It is safe to say Golden State has put up with quite a lot of misfortune and this season full of good luck was long overdue.

Oklahoma City wasn’t the only team forced to deal with injuries to key players. In fact, all teams the Warriors played in the postseason were not at full strength. In the First Round of the NBA Playoffs, Golden State matched up against the New Orleans Pelicans. They were without starting point guard Jrue Holiday in Game 2 and his minutes were limited all series. Guard Tyreke Evans was clearly banged up and also faced a minutes restriction for much of the series.

The Memphis Grizzlies were the next team in Golden State’s way. Memphis was without Mike Conley in Game 1 (which the Warriors won) but he returned in Game 2 and led the Grizzlies to victory. However, as the series wore on, he seemed hopelessly fatigued — almost rendering his unique skill set useless. On top of that, Memphis’ member of the All-Defensive 1st Team — Tony Allen — missed Game 5 and was extremely limited in Game 6 due to a hamstring injury.

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The Houston Rockets met the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals and they too were without key players. Two-fifths of their original starting lineup were out of commission all series as Patrick Beverley and Donatas Motiejunas were recuperating after season-ending injuries. Golden State romped in five games, but Beverley’s defensive aggressiveness against Curry could have extended the series.

The Warriors were the healthier team in the NBA Finals as the Eastern Conference Champions Cleveland Cavaliers were without Anderson Varejao, Kevin Love and — after Game 1 — Kyrie Irving for the entirety of the series. Not even LeBron James could carry the Cavaliers out of that hole against the mighty Warriors. Golden State won the series in six games but the last three contests were not nearly as competitive as the first three.

In addition to health — or lack thereof — seeding and matchups worked out in the Warriors favor.

Next: Matchups