With a record of 63-15 and just four games to go in the regular season, the Golden State Warriors appear to be a machine that can’t be stopped. Sure, the Warriors have just lost two games in a row, including one thumping at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, but that’s just a blip on the radar. There’s no question getting through the NBA Playoffs in the always tough Western Conference is an obstacle for any squad, but the Warriors should be considered the hands-down favorite to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy this summer, even with the Spurs rolling and LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers playing at an equally high level in the Eastern Conference.
The reasons for bestowing the honor of odds-on favorite to win it all upon the Warriors are a plenty. First of all, the team has the best record in the NBA and at one point in the season, they looked to be the first team since the 1995-1996 Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls to eclipse 70 wins. While they won’t get to that total and can only reach a maximum of 67 wins, to accomplish the kind of record they have without a player considered to be the absolute greatest of all time is no small feat, especially in a conference that features what most would consider to be the top candidates for MVP, including the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook, the Houston Rockets’ James Harden and of course the Warriors’ Stephen Curry.
Speaking of Curry, he would be yet another reason the Warriors are the favorite for the title. Curry is shooting over 97 percent from the free throw line and over 50 percent from three since the All-Star break. While his season-long points per game average and shooting percentages have been slightly higher in previous seasons (although not at the same time), Curry has managed to make spectacular play after spectacular play this season and seems to be locked in when the game is on the line, which is a key characteristic an MVP-caliber talent must possess in order to win the trophy. Make no mistake about it, he has been a great player for a few years now, but that great play is now showing itself in the team’s overall results and more importantly in its aspirations for a championship.
Perhaps the man guiding Curry from the sidelines deserves a little bit of the credit. Coach Steve Kerr has had a profound impact on the Warriors’ franchise in this his first season as head coach. Previous bench boss Mark Jackson helped turn Golden State into a strong defensive team, but Kerr has helped them become elite on both sides of the ball, both capable of outscoring opponents and shutting them down. While the Warriors are green in terms of having a proven history of going deep into the playoffs, it looks like that won’t matter this year.
As much as having the right coach designing the plays and the right point guard executing the plays are both keys to success, so is having an elite scorer like Klay Thompson at the team’s disposal. For the first time in his young career, Thompson is putting up more than 20 points per game. He’s pouring in 21.3 this season to be exact. While Curry is the best player on the team, Thompson is his other half, and the two form the best backcourt in the league. They bring an ability to drive and score the ball to the table in a way that no other backcourt in the league can emulate.
Anchored with the two stars, an impressive coaching strategy and a fantastic formula for winning nearly every single night (Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green are defensive terrors in the frontcourt), perhaps the biggest reason the Warriors will likely win the NBA title this summer is because of the team’s obvious home-court advantage. The fans at Oracle Arena are loud and intimidating to opposing teams. The players themselves seem to walk out on the court with a chip on their shoulder that gives the team an incredible resolve to either blow out opponents completely, or do whatever it takes to pull out a win in a tight game.
For proof of that, all one needs to do is look at the team’s home record. It speaks for itself … 35-2. It’s safe to say that nobody in the Western Conference or the Eastern Conference for that matter is going to walk into a playoff series against the Warriors expecting to win a road game. And since the Warriors have home-court advantage locked up all the way through the NBA Finals, bringing home the trophy is a mere matter of mathematics.