Finally, the NBA Playoffs have arrived after a long season of anticipation. But the team that everyone thought would be atop the Western Conference is far from a lock to get back to the NBA Finals for a fourth straight season. The Golden State Warriors have had some struggles this season and have the unenviable task of taking on a seventh seeded San Antonio Spurs squad in the first round of the playoffs. Should the Warriors be worried about the task at hand in just the first round of the playoffs?
Golden State’s biggest source of concern should be the reemergence of the injury bug around the team. Both Kevin Durant and Steph Curry have missed time this season due to various ailments. But it is Curry who is the real concern heading into the postseason. Curry has dealt with knee and ankle issues this season, and has not been able to play as regularly as the Warriors would want him to heading into the playoffs. And while there is talk Curry could come back, having him at less than 100 percent would have a big impact on the Warriors’ offense and ball movement.
Of course, the Warriors are fortunate to be playing this version of the San Antonio Spurs. With Kawhi Leonard in last year’s playoffs, the Spurs looked like they would be a threat to upset the Warriors. Then, Leonard got hurt and hasn’t been seen much at all since. He is expected to miss this series with an injury that he has already been cleared to return from, which has been a huge source of tension for the Spurs as a club throughout this season.
Golden State has been the betting public’s favorite team to back since they acquired Kevin Durant. Naturally, the public flocks to the team that has two of the three best players in the sport, and by far the most exciting offense to watch in all of the NBA. When it comes to NBA teams that attract a lot of free bets or traditional wagers, the Warriors certainly fit that bill.
This postseason, though, the Warriors will have to flip the proverbial switch if they want to justify the treatment they get from recreational bettors. Their recent play has been too inconsistent to make them worth backing on a regular basis, despite their tremendous talent at the top of their roster. In sports betting, form is more important than reputation and the Warriors need to get back on form in a hurry to avoid an early playoff exit.
If Leonard was scheduled to play in this series, the Spurs would have a genuine chance to knock off the Warriors. But, then again, if Leonard was healthy, the Spurs probably would not be the seventh seed in the Western Conference either. Given the Warriors’ talent and the ability of the Gregg-Popovich-led Spurs to never give up, expect this series to be tightly contested despite the large disparity in seeding between the two teams.
Photos: “Steph Curry Warriors vs. Jazz @ Energy Solutions Arena Jan. 31 2014” by Rus Kersey (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0), “Kawhi Leonard, NBA Finals MVP” by (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).