The Golden State Warriors advanced to their fifth straight finals after a thrilling overtime victory in Portland last night. That game was fun and close and I enjoyed every second of it. I will say, even when the lead ballooned to 17, I never thought the Warriors were out of it because they are never out of it. They have so many solid shooters and a very good, and underrated, defense. They can also catch fire at any moment.
So, instead of checking out, I stayed to watch all of the second half and overtime. And the Warriors pulled it out. What makes this so different was the fact they swept out a very, very good Trailblazers without KD. Also, they, and I hate that I am writing this, were an absolute joy to watch. They have been so much fun for the past 5 games in fact. Don't get it twisted, KD makes this team pretty much unstoppable. He is the best scorer in the league, he is an outstanding defender and rebounder and he is a matchup nightmare. He is one of the greats, a hall of famer and an MVP candidate every year. He is a beast. But, with him out, the Warriors remind me a bit of the team that won their first finals. They are swinging the ball all over the floor. Steph is putting in 30 plus points like it is nothing. Klay, while his shooting has been wildly inconsistent all playoffs, is locking it down on the defensive end. And, another thing I never thought I would say, or want to say, Draymond Green has been otherworldly. He is the straw that stirs this team's drink. He gets everything flowing. He runs the offense. He snatches rebounds. He is the best defender in the NBA, and it is not even close. And, his recent interview where he said that he used to do more crying than playing, made me respect the hell out of him. He has also dropped 20 pounds and looks like he can run all day. He has been the best all around Warrior for the past 2 series. Without his play, they don't beat Houston, and they certainly don't sweep Portland. Draymond has been absolutely outstanding. Hell, if he keeps this up, he may win Finals MVP over Steph, and it would be totally justified.
All of this is to say, I cannot believe I have found myself having fun watching the Warriors win lately. When KD signed there 3 years ago, they immediately became the villain. They soiled the NBA. The competition was moot and pointless. It was a done deal. And for 2 years, that very thing happened. But, when he went out late in the third quarter of game 5 of the Houston series, this team almost instantly became likable again. They started to whip the ball around. They started to share more. They ran more. They ran less iso basketball. Steph and Klay stopped deterring. Draymond pretty much completely took over as the lead guard on offense. They became, at least in their minds, the "underdogs" again. Hell, I picked Houston to beat them after KD got hurt. But, they showed us that they aren't a one man team. That, when given more shots, Steph is an MVP. Klay proved his worth. And Draymond is making himself a ton of money when his deal is up in a year.
In no way am I saying that this team is better off with KD out. That is insane. What I am saying is, this team is fun to watch without KD. They remind me of the Spurs when they had Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli and Tim Duncan. Draymond, Klay and Steph are the 21st century version of those guys. I have never met anyone that doesn't like those Spurs teams or players. Hell, I know I rooted for them to beat the Big Three Heat teams. I in fact have always liked the Spurs. And god help me, this is what this iteration of the Warriors remind me of right now. If they end up facing Milwaukee in the finals, I think they will need KD. But, if it is Toronto, I bet they could win without him, and they would be as much fun to watch as they are right now.
I guess this piece is all to say that, I cannot believe that I like this Warriors team. They are supposed to be the villain, the bad guys, the one team that made the most super of super teams. But dammit, I have really enjoyed watching them since game 6 of the Houston series. They play a beautiful game when they play like they have lately, and it is a joy to my eyeballs. We will see what happens in 9 days, what with KD's injury, and if Boogie Cousins comes back or not. But, for the time being, this version of the Warriors is fun, and they play exquisite basketball. It is truly basketball at its highest form.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing, the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast, and the greatest basketball writer on the internet.
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