Do Warriors have the drive or energy to win another title?
Golden State appears to be physically worn down at times and going through the motions
OAKLAND, California — Tony Robbins brought some much-needed energy and enthusiasm into the Golden State Warriors’ locker room after Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday. The motivational speaker and life coach told Warriors forward Draymond Green he loved his spirit and asked if he voiced expletive-laced displeasure at Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson when they scuffled. Robbins even kissed Green on the shoulder twice to show his respect.
The Warriors were familiar with Robbins because he spoke to the players and coaches on March 13, and they were happy to see him back after Thursday’s 124-114 overtime win.
“Man, he had us jumping around during his speech,” Green said.
Perhaps Robbins should stick around and give the often-unfocused, tired-looking and going-through-the-motions NBA power another pep talk before Game 2 on Sunday.
NBA fans are witnessing possible history, as this Warriors team has four potential Hall of Famers in All-Stars Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Green and Klay Thompson. Golden State’s roster also boasts the 2015 NBA Finals MVP in Andre Iguodala. The Warriors have beaten a Cavaliers squad led by the man vying to be the best player in NBA history, LeBron James, in two of the past three years and are expected to do it again.
The Warriors could end up being spoken of in the same breath as Bill Russell’s or Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics, Magic Johnson’s, Shaquille O’Neal’s or Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers, Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls or Tim Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs if they win a third championship in four years. But do these Warriors have the drive or energy to snatch that historic reputation along with another coveted Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy?
Thompson has previously said the Warriors are a great scoring team in the third quarter because they have to make up for their mistakes from the first half. Green said the Warriors “gave two games away” during a Western Conference finals series that lasted seven games against the hot-scoring Houston Rockets. One Warriors member said the reigning champs haven’t played a great all-around game since a 123-101 Game 1 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on April 28.
Asked if they were lucky to win Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Green said: “No. I think we continued to fight. Nonetheless, things happen and we were able to come out with a win. However you can get a win, you take it.”
Even with the way they took the Finals opener, the Warriors are just three games away from being back-to-back NBA champions. So why have the Warriors lacked consistency?
Perhaps being bored with the lengthy process to get to the NBA Finals conjures up a nightly lack of focus. It is like a homecoming game for most of the Warriors’ foes. You’re suddenly playing the champs with a national spotlight and media interest. Even the other great teams view the Warriors as a measuring stick. NBA teams trying to tank forget that mentality when they play the Warriors. Teams such as the Rockets, Spurs and Celtics are also built specifically to attempt to beat the Warriors.
The Warriors appear to be physically worn down at times, and perhaps it’s because of their postseason miles. Thompson has played in 86 postseason games during this four-year Finals run, with possibly six more games on the horizon. Five of the Warriors’ top six players in career postseason games played are current players, including the leader in Thompson (99), followed by Green (97), Curry (87), Iguodala (81) and Shaun Livingston (77). Even Durant has played in 69 postseason games the past four seasons, including two seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Of course, James has been in the most postseason games of them all, playing in eight straight NBA Finals, but his supporting cast doesn’t have nearly the same mileage.
I will never forget the Detroit Pistons, who played in six straight Eastern Conference finals from 2003-08, losing to a young James and the Cavs in the 2007 conference finals. When asked about losing that conference final, Chauncey Billups once said, “We were just tired.” Well, these Warriors look like Billups’ Pistons did — and coincidentally are playing against James too.
James scored a game-high 51 points on Thursday night, and the Cavaliers should have won Game 1. After George Hill’s missed free throw kept the Cavaliers from breaking the tie in the final seconds of regulation, teammate J.R. Smith had a mental breakdown after getting a huge offensive rebound in front of the rim and dribbled the clock out in regulation. But before that Smith miscue, the much taller Durant missed his rebounding block-out assignment against the much shorter guard.
On Smith’s miscue, Green said: “Thanks. I really thought he was looking for LeBron. I didn’t know he thought they were up one point until I started walking toward an official and thought, ‘Oh, snap, he thought they were up. But hey, man, they came up with the rebound, which was big for them.”
Skeptics also believe the referees helped the Warriors. James drew a charge on Durant with 36.4 seconds left in regulation that was ultimately called a blocking foul on James after a review. Durant converted a pair of free throws to tie it at 104. The Cavs were fuming about this change of events afterward.
James and the gritty Cavaliers were heavy underdogs entering the series but are a better-than-advertised Finals foe.
Kevin Love is a respected five-time All-Star who averaged 17.6 points and 9.3 rebounds and shot 41.5 percent from the 3-point line and can always get a bucket. The Cavaliers’ roster also has several players with previous Finals experience in James, Love, Smith, Hill, Tristan Thompson, Kyle Korver and Kendrick Perkins. So the inexperienced label doesn’t really fit the Cavaliers.
Moreover, please don’t compare this Cavaliers team to the 2007 team that went to the NBA Finals. James’ biggest weakness 11 years ago was shooting when the Spurs chose to leave him wide-open for 3-pointers. Guard Eric Snow was the only player on that Cavs team who had previous Finals experience. Thanks to all of the degradation of these so-called weak Eastern Conference champs, there is no deep pressure on them in these Finals if your name is not LeBron James.
The Warriors have also dealt with their share of injuries this season. Curry has been stymied by ankle and knee woes and appears to just be rounding back to form. Guard Patrick McCaw recently returned after missing extended time after a bad fall. The Warriors have also been without Iguodala (left leg contusion) during their last five postseason games.
The Warriors’ focus might be different if Iguodala were playing. The defensive standout with long arms has experience guarding James, has a high basketball IQ, is a great passer, nails open 3-pointers, rebounds well and settles down the offense. There is a chance that Iguodala can return to action on Sunday in Game 2, but Game 3 in Cleveland on Wednesday might be more realistic, a source told The Undefeated. The Warriors desperately need the 2012 NBA All-Star back from a scoring, defensive mentality and leadership standpoint.
And what about stopping James offensively? The 14-time NBA All-Star became the first player in NBA history to score more than 50 points and lose in an NBA Finals game. With or without Iguodala, Green believes he has a better remedy against the four-time NBA MVP. The Cavaliers had 19 offensive rebounds.
“LeBron is great, but those offensive rebounds kept them in the game,” Green said. “In crucial moments, we have to rebound the basketball. … You have to make him take tough shots. In the first half, there really was no resistance.”
After visiting the Warriors, Robbins said on his Instagram account: “Greatness is demanded by the playoffs. Demanded by the level of competition that is about to begin. It all comes down to constantly raising your standards, knowing that there is always another level. It’s the little things that make the greatest difference.”
The Warriors have the talent to reach the greatness of which Robbins speaks. But does Golden State have the drive, energy and fight to win a third title in four years?
“We will take it how we can get it,” Green said. “But we have to play better.”