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The Golden State Warriors begin their quest to become the first team since the Los Angeles Lakers to win three NBA Championships on the bounce against the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the post-season.
The Lakers were the last franchise to win three titles in a row in a run from 2000 to 2002. Golden State have won three crowns in four years, but saw their run impeded by the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James in 2016.
Steve Kerr’s men have been imperious at the top of the NBA for the past two season. The signing of DeMarcus Cousins further bolstered the club’s already formidable roster. Pundits predicated at the start of the campaign that Golden State could even break their own record-breaking 72-win term from 2016.
However, the Warriors have been made to work to secure the top seed in the Western Conference. The club have still won 57 matches – a dominant season by regular standards, although the Warriors have raised expectations due to their own brilliance.
They will be challenged by the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. Los Angeles enjoyed a solid season in their own right, winning 48 matches that would have been good enough for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.
The franchise have been knocked out at the first attempt in their two previous visits to the post-season. Doc Rivers faces a huge challenge to guide his team past the Warriors, who have not lost a playoff series since the 2016 Finals.
The Warriors were expected to roll towards the number one seed in the Western Conference with relative ease this term. Although they secured a 57-win campaign and achieved the feat, it was more challenging than anticipated. The team had chemistry issues as Kevin Durant and Draymond Green clashed, while Steph Curry had injury troubles during the season.
Golden State endured an ordinary month in November, enduring a 7-7 record, which included a four-game losing streak. Kerr was able to bring his team together to find their form on the court, beating out the Denver Nuggets for top spot. However, unlike in previous seasons, the Warriors appear more human than ever and reliant on the form of Curry.
The 30-year-old missed 13 games during the regular season due to a spate of ankle injuries. Curry remained on top of his game when he was on the court, averaging 27.3 points per game. His leadership could be more important to the Warriors during the post-season, especially when they are put under pressure. He has been the foundation of their success, and although the arrival of Durant has made the club dominant, Curry remains the integral cog in the machine.
Durant has been excellent once again this term, but it could his final season in the Bay Area. His disputes with Green could lead to his exit, although the prospect of continued Championships may keep him at Oracle Arena. Klay Thompson has also been a foundation Warriors piece, but like Durant has an expiring contract. The dynasty could be set for one last surge at greatness, and it shouldn’t stop in the first round, which should see the Warriors ease past the Clippers.
The Clippers are in the process of a rebuild, having seen Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and Tobias Harris all leave the club over the past 18 months. Rivers has performed brilliantly to get his side into the post-season courtesy of a 48-win campaign. The odds were already stacked against the club after the exodus of their three leading players, but the trade to allow Harris to leave at the deadline robbed Rivers of the Clippers’ best player over the course of the term.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander displayed promise in his rookie season, playing in every single game and averaging 26.5 minutes on the court in his outings. The 20-year-old will have learned valuable lessons and has not shirked away from responsibility. Facing the Warriors will be a daunting challenge, but it should bed him into the post-season without the weight of expectations. Danilo Gallinari rose to the occasion after the Harris trade.
Gallinari has enjoyed the most productive season of his NBA career, becoming a decisive factor at both ends of the court. Whether he can raise the level of his game to disrupt the Warriors’ plans is another matter. At the least his experience will be vital in keeping Los Angeles on their mettle amid the talent Golden State will throw at Rivers’ men. Lou Williams has also been more than effective in the final third, averaging 20 points per game. Rivers has worked well with a collection of experience and youth, but they’re lacking the star power to match Golden State in the series.
The Warriors secured a 3-1 series victory over the Clippers during the regular season, winning the final three matches. Los Angeles defeated their rivals in the opening contest between the two teams, despite 30-point efforts from Durant and Thompson. Williams and Montrezl Harrell came off the bench to deliver the win for Rivers’ men in overtime.
Golden State bounced back to close out a narrow triumph on the road before easing past the Clippers in the final two matches of their series, including last week as Curry puts 27 points on the board. Expect the playoff series to follow a similar pattern.
The Warriors should have no problem advancing to the Western Conference Semi-Finals. They have far more superior talent on the court against a team that has played above expectations this term.
Between Curry, Durant and Thompson, Golden State should barely had to break out of first gear. Back them to win the opener with relative ease at odds of -1300 with Bovada, while take them to clinch a probable series whitewash at odds of -20000 with BetOnline.
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