As if the Warriors needed more obstacles to come between them and a third consecutive National Basketball Association championship, their return home was greeted by news that slotman Kevon Looney looks to be out for the remainder of the Finals with a fractured collarbone. With Kevin Durant still decommissioned by a right calf strain, DeMarcus Cousins nowhere near to peak form just six weeks removed from a left quadriceps muscle tear, and Andre Iguodala playing through a left leg injury, the last thing they needed was yet another development that portrayed them as walking wounded.
Yet, the Warriors are precisely that as they host the Raptors in Game Three of the Finals tomorrow. Even All-Star guard Klay Thompson, whose team-high-scoring exertions the other day enables them to climb out of yet another double-digit hole en route to a much-needed victory, figures to suit up at far less than a hundred per cent — assuming he’s even cleared to do so. Even as the release of magnetic resonance imaging results were delayed yesterday following their late cross-country flight, the best-case scenario has him braving left hamstring tightness from an awkward landing in the fourth quarter of Game Two.
To contend that Thompson is important to the Warriors’ cause would be to severely understate the obvious. Had he not hit the ground running the other day while Splash Brother Steph Curry suffered from shooting woes, they may well have been buried in a deficit too large for their typical third-quarter run to overcome. Parenthetically, it was no coincidence that they went on a scoring drought the moment he left the court for the locker room midway through the fourth quarter. They were saved by their resiliency — and a timely trey from Iguodala, who was likewise tended to by medical staff shortly before the end of the first half.
With Durant and Looney sidelined, the Warriors are compelled to parade traditional lineups, in and of itself a handicap given their small-ball predilections. And, under the circumstances, their projected starters have seen better days. Only Draymond Green is close to peak form; Cousins, Thompson (on the assumption clearance is given), Iguodala, and Curry are slated to spend significant time with trainer Rick Celebrini tomorrow. Nonetheless, they possess one strength borne of their protracted success in the sport’s grandest stage: an unshakable self-belief.
Indeed, the Warriors are utterly confident in their capacity to overcome any obstacle that comes their way. They’ve been there and done that, and are only too willing to bank on head coach Steve Kerr’s system that both maximizes their assets and promotes collective transcendence. Not for nothing was every single one of their 22 second-half — and 38 of their aggregate 42 — field goals in Game Two assisted. And not for nothing have reserves otherwise riding the pine, among them Quinn Cook and Andrew Bogut, stepped up under pressure.
Needless to say, the Warriors’ advantages are magnified at the Oracle Arena. Which, in a nutshell, is why they’re favored to prevail tomorrow and in Game Four regardless of who gets to burn rubber. The hardware is theirs to lose, and they’re not likely to.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.