Coming into the series I predicted the Spurs to win in five and felt pretty confident in my stance that the Spurs were the superior team. They just seemed to match up great against the Dubs and it seemed almost impossible to me that they would get beaten more than once. They Warriors were coming off an upset over the Nuggets where they lost their second most consistent offensive player and as a young team I assumed they would just be happy to be in the second round. I didn't expect them to concede early but I thought they were going to fold if the Spurs beat them in Oakland.
Instead the Warriors stole a game in San Antonio and after the Spurs delivered a tough loss at Oracle, they rallied and pulled out a great win in game four. Granted, the Spurs did everything in their power to let the Warriors back in it but the Warriors put in the work and toughed out an ugly, ugly win, the type most inexperienced teams struggle to get. They ultimately lost, but in my eyes, they showed that they can become an actual powerhouse in the Western Conference with a few tweaks.
So before moving on to the Grizzlies, I do want to take a moment to say that I underestimated the Warriors this year, I think they are for real and will be a major player in the conference for the foreseeable future.
Stephen Curry is an electrifying shooter. You don't usually see that adjective used on perimeter-oriented guys; it's usually reserved for high flyers and posterizers. But Curry is the rare guy that can make the toughest shots look easy to the point where the first shot gets the crowd pumped while the rest are just expected to fall. It's strange when he misses a contested, off-balance three, which is nothing short of crazy. When you pair that shooting prowess with great ball handling and solid playmaking you get a star point guard that is completely different form the physical specimens that dominate the position but good enough to build a team around. If only those ankle would hold.
Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes have been a bit up and down in this roller coaster of a series for the Warriors but they are the perfect wing complements to Curry. Both are long defenders that can shoot and both are fine taking a back seat to both Curry and Lee, for the time being. Thompson needs to work on his consistency and his finishing around the rim but he certainly has the tools to be an efficient scorer and Barnes shows enough skill and maturity for me to believe he could easily be their Kawhi Leonard. They need a third guy that can play both wing positions and it might be already in their roster if Rush comes back from his injury.
They also have rookies Draymond Green and Kent Bazemore, which are exactly the type of player I wish the Spurs would target. Neither is a great player or, to be honest, better than most of the Spurs' bench guys. But they are young, athletic players that can defend multiple positions and could grow into very solid rotation players. Focus on finding one of those this off season, if you have the time, R.C.
I'm not the biggest Lee fan because I like good defensive bigs but the guy is a double-double machine that brings it night in and night out and can handle the offensive burden, plus his jumper gives their offense another wrinkle. He also seems to be a great leader, playing through injury and providing moral support for his younger teammates. Ezeli is a fine young back up center that the Spurs gift wrapped for them for doing us the solid of taking RJ's contract and if the always underrated Landry is resigned and all remain healthy that is as solid a big rotation as there is in the league, especially if a certain Australian center stays healthy.
Andrew Bogut gets his own paragraph because in these playoffs he got back to being the defensive beast he was in Milwaukee before he broke his arm. When the Dubs traded Monta Ellis for Bogut they were aiming for a change in the culture of the team but also hoping that Bogut would come back healthy enough to anchor their defense. It didn't look like it would pan out but in these playoffs the Aussie center is showing just how valuable a player he is on defense, doing a good job on Duncan in the post and providing the type of interior presence every good team needs. Yes, he fouls a lot and should get called for moving screens every other play but that's not what makes him a good defensive player; his instincts and smarts do. If he can get back the touch around the rim he displayed before his gruesome injury he will once again become a top five center but even if he doesn't average double digit points he is a keeper.
I don't have a lot to say about Mark Jackson (I'm not impressed but he's only starting his career as coach) or their front office but the Warriors not only have a bright future but also an impressive present after advancing to the conference semis earlier than most would have predicted. I'm sure being eliminated sucks for them but they can look forward to next season, when their young players will be wiser and they will have the expiring contracts of Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins to make a move that can put them over the top.
The Spurs beat the Warriors because they were the better team this year and I don't think that's anything for the Warriors to feel bad about. I was foolish to underestimate them coming into this series but I won't make that mistake again any time soon. The Warriors have arrived and the Western Conference better be ready for them.