Having moved on to bigger and better things by now, the Warriors can conveniently forget how harrowing the Western Conference Finals were. There were moments – quite a few, actually – in which the Oklahoma City Thunder looked like the better team and the presumptive West champion. The Thunder blew out the Warriors in Games 3 and 4. All of Golden State’s wins were arduous slogs.
A common theme in the series was Oklahoma City’s abundance of energy. On the flip side, the Warriors frequently looked worn down, physically and mentally.
No one around here has been willing to admit that the Warriors are tired. That includes Draymond Green, who said this yesterday: “I think at this point in the year, nobody’s worried about being worn out. You’ve kind of found a whole new source of energy when you get to the finals.”
But the Warriors have been answering questions about their energy for weeks. It started as they pursued the all-time NBA regular-season wins records of 73, and got there on the final day of the season. It has continued in the postseason as superstar Stephen Curry has battled multiple injuries.
And it’s at the forefront now against the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team that bought some extra recuperation by sweeping its first two playoff opponents.
“It just helps with guys being able to take care of their bodies,” Cleveland guard Iman Shumpert said yesterday. “You’re able to get the proper amount of rest, be able to watch the basketball going on with the other games, study more film. Get better and stay sharp in the gym.”
While the Warriors toiled.
But are the Cavaliers really that much better rested? Everyone made a big deal of the Warriors’ pursuit of 73-9, and certainly it must have taken a mental toll. But the Cavs didn’t wrap up the No. 1 seed in the East until the second-to-last game of the regular season. They, too, were playing hard right up until the end.
And yes, Cleveland has played fewer games in the postseason, but the difference hasn’t been gigantic. The Warriors played 17 playoff games in 44 days, then got two days off. The Cavaliers played 14 playoff games in 40 days, then took five days off. That last little vacation certainly was welcomed by the Cavs (and could have been useful to the Warriors) but, again, doesn’t seem hugely significant.
Here are the minutes played by the Dubs’ top players so far in the 2016 postseason:
Dramond Green 639
Klay Thompson 602
Andre Iguodala 528
Harrison Barnes 521
Stephen Curry 368
Shaun Livingston (Curry’s sub) 367
And here are the minutes played by the Cavaliers’ starters:
LeBron James 530
Kyrie Irving 501
Kevin Love 455
J.R. Smith 469
Tristan Thompson 396
Make of those numbers what you will. Draymond has played more minutes than LeBron, for sure, and Klay more than Kyrie. Enough to make a difference in their performance in these finals? Who knows? Most of those guys are too young to be worn down by a playoff run. The player to worry about is Curry, who has a history of fragility, and he looked more agile in Game 7 against OKC than he had in weeks.
The guess here: Win or lose, fatigue will not be a big factor for the Warriors in the NBA Finals.