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Six Things to Know: NBA Pacific Division

A look at six of the most important things to know in the Pacific Division entering the 2014-15 NBA season.

Jesse Blancarte



This week, Basketball Insiders takes a look at six things to keep an eye on in each division. We kicked our series off with the Southeast Division, followed by the Central Division. Now, we take a look at the Pacific Division.

The Pacific Division again features two contenders in the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors. The Warriors hired Steve Kerr to take over as head coach, while the Clippers got a new owner in Steve Ballmer as well as a few new role players. Meanwhile, the Phoenix Suns are looking to build off of last season’s surprising success after signing point guard Isaiah Thomas and re-signing Eric Bledsoe to a five-year contract. The Sacramento Kings enter this season led by DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, both of whom won gold medals this summer with Team USA in the FIBA World Cup. Also, the Los Angeles Lakers are coming off of one of their worst seasons in franchise history, but bring back a healthy Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, along with some other key additions and a new head coach in Byron Scott.

These are some of the major events that took place in the Pacific Division this offseason. Here we take a look at six things you should know about the Pacific Division entering the 2014-15 NBA season.

1. The Golden State Warriors will be a better offensive team under first year head coach Steve Kerr.

Despite all of their offensive weapons, the Golden State Warriors were not an elite offensive team last season. Former head coach Mark Jackson had a preference for utilizing players in iso-situations, which stagnated what should have been a high-octane offense. Ultimately the Warriors finished last season with the NBA’s 12th-best offense (105.3 points per 100 possessions), which is a surprisingly low ranking for a team with arguably the best shooting backcourt in NBA history.

Jackson was fired this offseason and rookie head coach Steve Kerr was hired to replace him. To help run Golden State’s offense, Kerr hired Alvin Gentry away from the Clippers. Gentry was credited with running the Clippers’ offense last season, which ranked first overall in the NBA.

Kerr has said that he wants to push the pace in transition, but there is more to the new Warriors offense than just running-and-gunning. Kerr is looking to implement principles from the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs teams he played for, which means the Warriors will run an offense that utilizes both the triangle offense and the Spurs’ effective motion weak set. Utilizing these offensive principles should improve the Warriors’ ball movement and create easier scoring opportunities for both the Warriors guards and big men.

The Warriors played extremely hard for Mark Jackson last season, and thrived as a defense under him. If the Warriors maintain that commitment to defense and successfully implement Kerr’s new offense, Golden State will be one of the best two-way teams in the league this upcoming season.

2. Spencer Hawes and Jordan Farmar are big additions to the Los Angeles Clippers.

It may seem obvious that adding a seven-foot center who can stretch the floor would be a significant addition for a team, but adding Spencer Hawes is particularly important for the Los Angeles Clippers.

This time last year, the Clippers were entering the 2013-14 NBA season with a front court depth chart that featured Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Antawn Jamison, Byron Mullens and Ryan Hollins. When Griffin and Jordan came out of the game, the frontcourt struggled to say the least. Recognizing this weakness, team president and head coach Doc Rivers traded away Jamison and Mullens, and acquired free agents Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis and Danny Granger midseason. Rivers tried all season to find an effective frontcourt rotation, but never found a sustainable combination.

With Hawes on the team, Rivers can now run a variety of frontcourt combinations. Hawes’ ability to stretch the floor makes it possible for him to play power forward next to Jordan (though that combo could struggle defensively). Alternatively, Hawes can stretch the floor from the center position, providing Griffin with more space to operate near and around the basket. And beyond this three-man rotation, Davis, Turkoglu and offseason-addition Ekpe Udoh provide solid depth in the frontcourt, which the team did not have entering last season.

Also, not re-signing backup point guard Darren Collison was a significant loss for the Clippers this offseason. But the Clippers filled Collison’s void nicely by signing Jordan Farmar. Farmar struggled with injuries last season, but in 41 games played he shot a blistering 43.8 percent from three-point range. Though Collison was effective doing a little bit of everything, Farmar may be the better overall fit with his ability to stretch the floor, which is crucial in Rivers’ offense.

Both signings somewhat flew under the radar this offseason, but both are significant for the Clippers as they try to get over the hump this season and win a championship.

3. The Sacramento Kings have position battles for three starting positions.

Some teams trot out the same starting lineup every night. That likely won’t be the case this season for the Sacramento Kings, whose only two locks to start are Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins.

The Kings let Isaiah Thomas sign with the Phoenix Suns this offseason, and replaced him with Darren Collison. The Kings signed Collison to a three-year, $15.04 million deal after he had a solid season with the Clippers backing up Chris Paul. The immediate assumption was that the Kings believed in Collison enough that he would be the unquestioned starter moving forward. However, late in the offseason, the Kings signed Ramon Sessions to a two-year, $4.25 million deal.

Don’t let the size of each player’s contract fool you. Sessions is an underrated point guard that can challenge Collison for the starting point guard position. Last season, Sessions averaged 12.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 26.7 minutes per game. In comparison, Collison averaged 11.4 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 25.9 minutes per game. In addition, Sessions is only one year older than Collison, is bigger and is the better passer. So while it seemed like Collison was the obvious answer for the Kings, it turns out that Sessions may end up being the starter at some point this season.

At shooting guard, Ben McLemore returns for his second season as the presumed starter. However, McLemore was very inconsistent last year and will need to show improvements in his game to solidify his position. Competing with McLemore is rookie Nik Stauskas, who has so far shown a nice blend of shooting, playmaking and athleticism at the NBA level. McLemore has the inside track on the starting job, but Stauskas may supplant him if McLemore shows the same inconsistencies from last season.

At power forward, Carl Landry, Derrick Williams, Jason Thompson and Reggie Evans are all competing with one another. Each player brings different skills and style to the power forward position, but no one really stands out. Williams has the most potential, but has never lived up to expectations after being drafted second overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. It seems that head coach Mike Malone prefers to bring Landry off the bench, and Evans is more of a rebounding specialist than full-time starter. This competition may end up coming down to Williams and Thompson, but could change multiple times throughout the season.

4. The Los Angeles Lakers will again struggle defensively.

The Los Angeles Lakers are looking to have a bounce-back season after going 27-55 last year. Kobe Bryant is healthy and looking spry, while Steve Nash is now healthier than he was seemingly all of last season. In addition, the Lakers have added notable players like Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis and highly touted rookie Julius Randle.

The Lakers are primed to have a much better season than last, but like last year, the defense is going to be a major issue. Last year, former Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni took a lot of criticism for his seeming lack of interest in defense. Now, Byron Scott takes over for D’Antoni and brings with him an added emphasis to defense.

But adding Scott won’t fix the Lakers’ major defensive issues. According to ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus rating (which is an estimate of a player’s impact to his team’s defense per 100 possessions), the Lakers only had four positive impact defensive players last season. Those four players were Chris Kaman, Pau Gasol, Robert Sacre and Xavier Henry. Kaman and Gasol are gone, and Sacre and Henry figure to play backup minutes at most.

Unfortunately, adding Bryant, Nash, Lin and Boozer does little to help in this area as they are not really impact defensive players. Ed Davis, Wesley Johnson and Jordan Hill are capable defenders, but it’s unlikely that they can turn the Lakers into a competitive defensive unit. Coach Scott will have to figure out how to make up for his lack of defenders, otherwise he will have to try and outgun opponents every night while surrendering a huge amount of points.

5. The Phoenix Suns have one of the most explosive backcourts in the league.

This offseason, the Phoenix Suns surprised many when they signed point guard Isaiah Thomas. Thomas quietly had an impressive season with Sacramento last year, averaging 20.3 points, 6.3 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game, but he hardly filled a need as Phoenix already had two quality point guards.

Nevertheless, Thomas now joins Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe in Phoenix to create one of the most unique backcourts in the NBA. Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek found success playing Dragic and Bledsoe together last season, until Bledsoe suffered a knee injury that sidelined him for roughly half of the season. Dragic did everything he could to make up for the loss of Bledsoe, putting together a career-year and almost leading the Suns to the playoffs. In addition to Thomas, Dragic and Bledsoe, journeyman shooting guard Gerald Green had an impressive 2013-14 NBA season, hitting the fourth-most three pointers in the league (204) on 40 percent shooting. Also, Phoenix used the 18th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft on point guard Tyler Ennis, who has a lot of potential at 20 years old.

It will be interesting to see how Hornacek balances his point guards. If he can successfully play all three veterans heavy minutes without giving up too much defensively, the Suns could tout the most dynamic backcourt in the NBA this upcoming season, as surprising as that may be.

6. The Warriors may end the Clippers’ two-year reign atop the Pacific Division.

In a seismic shift from years past, the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors stand atop the Pacific Division. The Clippers have won the Pacific Division two years in a row now, but the Warriors stand in their way again this season. Over the last few seasons, the Clippers and Warriors have become one of the NBA’s best rivalries. The two teams met last season in the first round of the playoffs, where the Clippers barely managed to out-duel the Warriors in seven games and advance to the second round.

Heading into this season, there are reasons to believe both teams will be even better. The Clippers are bringing back their core players from last season, and have another year of experience under Doc Rivers. In addition, the Donald Sterling scandal is over and the team now has an enthusiastic and supportive owner in Steve Ballmer. Also, the Clippers have added impact players as mentioned above, as well as Chris Douglas-Roberts. The improvement that Blake Griffin has shown in his jump shot during the preseason is another significant development that could make Griffin and the Clippers even more dangerous. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the team is now healthy after suffering significant injuries last season.

For the Warriors, they added a versatile guard in Shaun Livingston, who solidifies the Golden State backcourt by adding both defense and playmaking. Also, as mentioned above, the Warriors’ offense should drastically improve from last season now that Kerr is on the sidelines. In addition, Stephen Curry continues to develop into one of the top all-around players in the league, and both he and Klay Thompson are coming off of a successful summer with Team USA. The Warriors’ roster is getting older (like the Clippers), but still has the potential to be a top offensive and defensive team, but that largely depends on how quickly Kerr can get the team accustomed to his offensive and defensive systems.

The Suns have the potential to surprise everyone and be in the mix with the Clippers and Warriors this upcoming season. However, the more likely scenario is that the Clippers and Warriors will be in a tight race all season as both teams fight for a championship. Though it’s not that important in the grand scheme of things, it’s possible, if not likely, that the Warriors will bring an end to the Clippers’ two year run atop the Pacific Division.

Make sure to follow our Six Things to Know series throughout the week to stay updated on what’s happening in each division.

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.


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Emeka Okafor Impacting 2018 Western Conference Playoff Race

Sidelined for several years with a neck injury, Emeka Okafor is back in the NBA and helping the Pelicans fight for a playoff seed.

Jesse Blancarte



When DeMarcus Cousins ruptured his Achilles tendon, most people in and around the league assumed the New Orleans Pelicans would eventually fall out of the Western Conference Playoff race. It was a fair assumption. In 48 games this season, Cousins averaged 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks while shooting 47 percent from the field and 35.4 percent from beyond the arc.

Anthony Davis and the Pelicans had other plans. Davis put the team on his shoulders, played at an elite level and, arguably, has forced his way into the MVP race. Behind Davis’ efforts, the Pelicans are currently 39-29, have won 7 of their last 10 games and hold the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

While Davis has been carrying the team since the loss of Cousins, he has received significant help from his teammates, including Emeka Okafor.

More recent NBA fans may be less familiar with Okafor since he has been out of the league since the end of the 2012-13 season. For context, in Okafor’s last season, David Lee led the league in double-doubles, Luol Deng led the league in minutes per game and Joakim Noah made the NBA All-Defensive First Team. However, Okafor entered the NBA with a lot of excited and expectations. He was drafted second overall, right behind Dwight Howard. Okafor played in 9 relatively successful NBA seasons until being sidelined indefinitely with a herniated disc in his neck prior to the start of the 2013-14 season.

Okafor was medically cleared to play in May of last year and played in five preseason games with the Philadelphia 76ers but was ultimately waived in October, prior to the start of the regular season. However, with the injury to Cousins, the Pelicans were in need of help at the center position and signed Okafor to a 10-day contract. Okafor earned a second 10-day contract and ultimately landed a contract for the rest of this season.

Okafor has played in 14 games so far for the Pelicans has is receiving limited playing time thus far. Despite the lack of playing time, Okafor is making his presence felt when he is on the court. Known as a defensive specialist, Okafor has provided some much needed rim protection and has rebounded effectively as well.

He has been [helpful] since the day he got here,” Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry said about Okafor after New Orleans’ recent victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. “I think his rim protection has been great. But, he’s capable of making a little jump shot and you can see that today. But just having him in there, his presence there has been great.”

Okafor has never been known as an elite offensive player, but he did average 15.1 points per game in his rookie season and has shown glimpses of an improved jump shot in his limited run with the Pelicans.

“You know, I’m happy it’s falling,” Okafor said after he helped seal the victory over the Clippers. “Kept in my back pocket. I was invoked to use it, so figured I’d dust it off and show it.”

Okafor was then asked if he has any other moves in his back pocket that he hasn’t displayed so far this season.

“A little bit. I don’t want to give it all,” Okafor told Basketball Insiders. “There’s a couple shots still. But we’ll see what opportunities unveil themselves coming forward.”

Okafor will never have the elite offensive skill set that Cousins has but his overall contributions have had a positive impact for a New Orleans squad that was desperate for additional production after Cousin’s Achilles tear.

“It’s impossible to replace a guy that was playing at an MVP level,” Gentry said recently. “For us, Emeka’s giving us something that we desperately missed with Cousins. The same thing with Niko. Niko’s given us something as far as spacing the floor. Between those guys, they’ve done the best they could to fill in for that. But we didn’t expect anyone to fill in and replace what Cousins was doing for us.”

Okafor is currently averaging 6.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game while shooting 54.5 percent from the field. While his averages don’t jump off the page, it should be noted that his per minute production is surprisingly impressive. Per 36 minutes, Okafor is averaging 13.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks. Those numbers are nearly identical to his averages from the 2012-13 season, though he is averaging twice as many blocks (up from 1.4).

The Pelicans have exceeded expectations and currently are ahead of teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers in the extremely tight Western Conference Playoff race. Okafor is doing more than could have reasonably been expected when he first signed with the Pelicans, though he would be the first person to pass the credit toward Anthony Davis.

When asked about Davis’ recent play, Okafor enthusiastically heaped praise toward his superstar teammate.

“It’s to the point where it’s like, ‘Alright, he has 40 doesn’t he?’ It’s impressive,” Okafor said about Davis. But it’s becoming so commonplace now.

He’s just an impressive individual. He gives it all. He’s relentless. And then off the court too, he’s a very, very nice kid. He really takes the leadership role seriously. I’m even more impressed with that part.”

There is still plenty of regular season basketball to be played and even a two-game losing streak can drastic consequences. But the Pelicans have proved to be very resilient and Okafor is confident in the team’s potential and outlook.

“I think we’re all hitting a good grove here and we’re playing very good basketball, said Okafor.”

Whether the Pelicans make the playoffs or not, it’s great to see Okafor back in the NBA and playing meaningful minutes for a team in the playoff race.

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NBA Daily: Nothing’s Promised, Not Even For The Warriors

The Warriors are wounded, and with Chris Paul, the Rockets may be equipped to take advantage.

Moke Hamilton



The Warriors are wounded, and for those that thought their waltzing into a four consecutive NBA Finals was a given, the Houston Rockets may have other ideas. Especially when one considers that the beloved Dubs are trying to buck history.

Steph Curry has ankle problems, Klay has a fractured thumb and Kevin Durant—the most recent of the team’s lynchpins to find himself on the disabled list—has a rib injury.

Sure, the Dubs might shake off their injuries and find themselves at or near 100 percent once the playoffs begin, but seldom do teams in the NBA get healthier as the year progresses.

Winning in the NBA is difficult. In order to take all the marbles, teams need a bunch of different ingredients, chief among them are good fortune and health. And in many ways, the two are entwined.

Simply put: the human body isn’t built to play as often and as hard as NBA players do. Those that we recognize as being among the greatest ever—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James among them—had one thing in common. They were all exceptionally durable.

Over the years, we’ve seen attrition and fragility cost the likes of Anfernee Hardaway, Yao Ming and Derrick Rose what seemed to be careers full of accolades and accomplishments. And the simple truth is that you never know which player, players or teams will be next to be undercut by injuries and progressive fatigue.

Just to keep things in perspective, the Warriors are attempting to become just the fifth team since 1970 to win at least three NBA championships in a four-year span.

The Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA Finals in 1985, 1987 and 1988 before Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls completed their three-peat from 1991-93. The Bulls would again do the same between 1996 and 1998, and Shaquille O’Neal and his Los Angeles Lakers accomplished the same from 2000 to 2002.

There are reasons why so few teams have been able to win as frequently as the Lakers and Bulls have, and health is certainly one of them. That’s especially interesting to note considering the fact that the Warriors may have been champions in 2016 had they had their team at full strength. Mind you, both Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala were severely limited in their abilities, while Andrew Bogut missed the fateful and decisive Game 6 and Game 7 of those Finals with injuries to his left leg.

At the end of the day, injuries are a part of the game. The best teams are often able to overcome them, while the luckiest teams often don’t have to deal with them. To this point, the Warriors have been both the best and incredibly lucky, but at a certain point, the sheer volume of basketball games is likely to have an adverse effect on at least a few members of the team.

We may be seeing that now.

En route to winning the 2015 NBA Finals, the Warriors turned in a playoff record of 16-5. In 2016, they were 15-9 and in 2017, they were 16-1. In total, the 62 playoff games would have worn a bit of tread off of their collective tires, just as their 73-9 regular season record may have.  In becoming a historically great team, the Warriors have expending the energy necessary of a team wishing to remain a contender, and that’s not easy.

As an aside, those that understand the difficulty in competing at a high level every single night are the ones who rightfully give LeBron James the respect he’s due for even having the opportunity to play into June eight consecutive years. Win or lose, in terms of consistent effort and constant production, James has shown as things we’ve never seen before.

Today, it’s fair to wonder whether the Warriors have that same capability.

We’ll find out in short order.

* * * * * *

As the Houston Rockets appear headed toward ending the Warriors’ regular season reign atop the Western Conference, there’s something awfully coincidental about the fact that the team seems to have taken the next step after the addition of Chris Paul.

Paul knows a thing or two about attrition and how unlucky bouts with injuries at inopportune times can cost a team everything. As much as anything else, it probably has something to do with why Paul continues to believe in the ability of the Rockets to achieve immortality.

On the first night of the regular season, mind you, in one horrific moment, Gordon Hayward and the Boston Celtics reminded us that on any given play, the outlook of an entire season—and perhaps, even a career—can change.

A twisted knee here, a sprained ankle there, and who knows?

With just over three weeks remaining in the regular season, the Warriors—the team that everyone knew would win the Western Conference again this season—has some concerns. Their primary weapons are hurting, their chances of securing home court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs are all but nil and their road to the Finals may end up being more difficult than they could have possibly imagined.

If the season ended today and the seeds held, the Warriors would draw the San Antonio Spurs in the first round and the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round before squaring off against the Rockets in the Western Conference Finals.

Of all teams, the Spurs are probably the last team the Warriors would want to see in the playoffs, much less the first round. While the outcome of that series would be determined by the health of Kawhi Leonard, there’s no doubt that Gregg Popovich would at least be able to effectively game plan for Golden State.

While the Blazers might not provide incredible resistance to the Warriors, the Oklahoma City Thunder will enter play on March 18 just two games behind the Blazers for the third seed out West. With the two teams squaring off against one another on March 25, it’s possible for Russell Westbrook and his crew having the opportunity to square off against the Dubs in the playoffs.

For Golden State, their path to the Finals having to go through San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Houston would absolutely be a worst case scenario. The only thing that could make it even more terrible for Steve Kerr would be having to do it with a platoon that was less than 100 percent.

Funny. In yet another season where everyone thought that it was the Warriors and everyone else, there are quite a few questions facing the defending champs heading into the final few weeks of the regular season.

Indeed, the Warriors are wounded. And whether they can be nursed back up to full strength is perhaps the most interesting thing to watch as the calendar turns to April and playoff basketball draws nearer.

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NBA Daily: The Golden State Warriors Need to Enter Rest Mode

With a bevy of injuries to their stars, the Golden State Warriors should rest up the remainder of the regular season to avoid any playoff letdowns.

Dennis Chambers



After a three-year-long run of dominating the NBA, the Golden State Warriors are showing some cracks in their armor.

Granted, those cracks aren’t a result of a botched system or poor play, but rather the injury bug biting the team in full force as they come down the regular season stretch.

First, it was Steph Curry and the ankle that’s bothered him all season — and for most of his career — when he tweaked it yet again on March 8 against the San Antonio Spurs. Golden State announced he would miss at least four games. Then it was Klay Thompson, who fractured his thumb three days later against the Minnesota Timberwolves — he’ll miss at least two weeks.

Now it’s Kevin Durant. Last year’s Finals MVP suffered an incomplete rib cartilage fracture and was ruled out of Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings. Durant is expected to be sidelined for at least two weeks. The Warriors would go on to lose that contest 95-93.

In about two weeks time, the Warriors went from having one of the most formidable offenses and scoring trios in the entire league, to having  Quinn Cook and Nick Young logging starter minutes.

Luckily for the Warriors, they’ve built up a big enough lead in the standings to achieve a 52-17 record, good for second place in the Western Conference. But the issue for the remainder of the season now becomes how healthy will the Warriors be come playoff time?

Curry and Durant have injury histories. Curry particularly has been bothered by this ankle since he entered the league. Without either of them, the Warriors — while still incredibly talented — will be on a completely even playing field with the Houston Rockets, and possibly other teams in the gauntlet that will be the Western Conference playoffs.

The bigger issue on top of the pending injury concerns becomes whether the Warriors should just pack it in for the rest of the regular season, and regroup for another expected title run.

Steve Kerr doesn’t seem to be thinking that way, however.

“All these injuries seem to be temporary,” Kerr told reporters. “A couple weeks, a week, two weeks – whatever. We’re in good shape. We’ve just got to survive this next slate of games and hopefully, start getting guys back and get rolling again for the playoffs.”

That’s true. None of the aforementioned injuries seem to be anything more serious than a few weeks of rest and relaxation. But that’s assuming the best case scenario for these players.

Should we assume that the Warriors are without their scoring trio for the next couple of weeks as their health updates have indicated, that would put their return roughly around April 1. At that time, Golden State would have six games remaining on their schedule. Four coming against playoff teams (Oklahoma City, Indiana, New Orleans, and Utah) with the other two games against Phoenix.

After missing the last few weeks on the court, with injuries that most likely won’t be at 100 percent, tossing their most valuable contributors back into the fray against a slate of playoff teams probably isn’t the smartest idea.

At this point, the Warriors postseason position is locked up. They likely won’t take the top seed away from Houston, and their lead is big enough to keep their second seed intact regardless of who’s on the court. The only thing left now is the determining who Golden State will play in the first round. With the revolving carousel that is the playoff standings out West, that’s anybody’s guess right now.

The only thing that’s certain is whichever team coming into Oracle Arena for that first round will be battle tested and talented based off of the dogfight they had to survive just to make the playoffs. The last thing the Warriors need to be is a banged up in a postseason with their first opponent smelling blood in the water.

In all likelihood, the Warriors — should everything go according to plan — will play the Houston Rockets for a chance to return to their fourth straight NBA Finals. Only this time, a potential Game 7 won’t be at Oracle Arena. It will be in downtown Houston, at the Toyota Center.

An advantage as big as the Warriors’ homecourt can never be understated. Operating in a do-or-die situation away from home will be newfound territory for this bunch. Regardless of talent or team success, at that point, it’s anybody’s game.

It won’t be easy for the Golden State Warriors as they try to extend their dynasty’s reign. This might be their most difficult year yet.

Durant, in his own words, can’t even laugh right now without feeling pain. The league’s only unanimous MVP is operating on one and a half ankles, and the team’s second Splash Brother has an injury on his shooting hand.

Resting up the team’s stars should be the team’s top priority right now, at risk of entering the postseason hobbled. Track record means nothing if the Warriors don’t have their full arsenal at disposal when the games matter most.

Hey, a 16-seed finally won a first-round game in the NCAA Tournament. Anything is possible on a basketball court, and the Warriors should do everything possible to ensure they’re not the next major upset candidate in line.

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