Grant Liffmann

How Warriors fans can find hope after heartbreaking NBA Finals loss

How Warriors fans can find hope after heartbreaking NBA Finals loss

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

The scene Thursday night in Oakland was shocking, uncomfortable, and surreal. As Drew Shiller and I hosted the postgame edition of Warriors Outsiders on the court, full of confetti following a Raptors' NBA title celebration, we learned of Klay Thompson's torn ACL. The mood of our show, which had already started with a confusing and unfamiliar feel, suddenly turned somber.

Warriors staff, security and workers surrounding us shared hugs and emotional moments as they said goodbye to a whole era of Oracle Arena. Meanwhile, about 20 yards to our right, Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry gleefully laughed as they rightfully savored their championship moment. Surreal.

Oddly enough, I believe the Warriors losing in six games of the NBA Finals was one of the greatest accomplishments this team has produced in five historic years. To show such great resiliency, faced with insurmountable adversity, was truly impressive. The Toronto Raptors are a very good, disciplined team led by an all-world talent in Leonard. And yet the Warriors, dealing with unthinkable bad luck and poor health, battled to be one bucket away from forcing a Game 7 in Toronto.

For a team that has been ridiculously ridiculed for years for having faced opponents that have dealt with injuries, the Warriors showed their greatness, even in a losing effort.

Despite all the obvious and overwhelmingly negative events that the team has faced in the last 72 hours, Warriors fans should find a glimmer of hope in how the team performed with their backs against the wall. We do not know what will happen in free agency, though it is very likely the Warriors bring back Thompson and perhaps Kevon Looney at the very least. But whatever version of the team starts opening night at the Chase Center next season, will know they have a lot to prove. And if they play anything like they did in Game 5 and 6 against Houston, or in the NBA Finals against Toronto, then not only will they be entertaining, they could be inspiring. 

To me, the most disappointing part of the injuries to Kevin Durant and Thompson (besides just the human element of seeing these men go through pain and sadness), is knowing that we will not be able to watch them on the court next season, no matter what team they are on. The NBA is worse for not being able to showcase the immense talents of those two players, and simply, Warriors games will just be less fun to cover.

But at some point both Durant and Thompson will be back playing the game they love, most likely Thompson before Durant. As a fan of the NBA, I hope that they are able to recover to be who they were this postseason. You could argue that Durant and Thompson played the best basketball of their careers these last couple months, so now we wait to see if they can play at the level again.

[RELATED: Eight-step plan to return Warriors to glory]

So now ever so quickly, before this dead season is even cold, we turn the attention to next season. The NBA Draft is next week, free agency begins the following week, and Las Vegas Summer League is right after that. We will know so much more about the future of the Warriors franchise within the next few weeks. So until then, try not to fear doom and gloom. Watch everything unfold, be patient, and try to find intrigue in the unexpected and unknown. Before long, the Warriors will be playing basketball again, and one thing is for sure, Steph Curry will be wearing the blue and gold.

Warriors trio of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green stepped up

Warriors trio of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green stepped up

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

Kevin Durant's Achilles injury is devastating.

As a basketball player and as a human being, it is an overwhelmingly unfortunate situation for him. Durant pushed so hard to come back to help his team, and ended up paying a immense cost for doing so.

What happens next for Durant is still a mystery, but one thing is certain, many narratives and takes will try to assign blame for the injury. Right now, instead of playing the blame game while there is no clear facts of what happened behind the scenes, it is time to simply feel for Durant and all he is going through.

The Warriors organization and the NBA as a whole is worse without him.

Looking back and analyzing Game 5 of the NBA Finals without thinking about Durant is hard to do, but the Warriors are in a dogfight to survive and win a third straight title. Their 106-105 win over the Raptors in Toronto was one of the most gutsy performances the Warriors have had since Steve Kerr arrived, but they still need to scratch and claw to win two more games without arguably their best player.

Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will have to step up even more than they have previously if they want to will the team to the title.

Here are some important stats that the orginial Big Three has accumulated in the playoffs:

Steph Curry's rebounding

We all know about Steph's scoring and the pressure he puts on opposing defenses. But one of the most under-the-radar aspects of Curry's game is his rebounding. Despite being consistently one of the smallest players on the court, Curry is adept at attacking the ball at its highest point and putting his body in position to ward off opposing rebounders.

During this playoff run, Curry has had six games in which he has collected eight or more rebounds. Last playoffs, Curry had only one such game. Going back even further, he had two games of eight or more rebounds in the 2017 playoffs and four games in 2016.

The emphasis to crash the boards has been an important part of a defensive effort to limit second-chance points. With Kevin Durant out, DeMarcus Cousins hobbled and Kevon Looney dealing with a painful chest injury, the Warriors will need all the help they can get on the boards, and Curry is stepping up.

Klay Thompson's 3-point shooting

Warriors fans are hardly surprised by Klay Thompson fireworks at this point. Very few players in NBA history can catch fire behind the 3-point line like Klay. The Warriors will need a lot of that if they intend to come back in the series, and Game 5 was a great start.

Thompson hit seven shots from deep, matching his high from the current playoffs. While he has been known to make seven 3-pointers in his sleep in the regular season, it has been much harder to come by over the last few playoffs.

Playing against elite opponents with their defensive focus amplified, Thompson has had to fight to get open looks. In fact, his two games of seven made shots from beyond the arc in these playoffs is more than the last two playoffs combined. While it is unfair to expect such greatness on an every-night basis, the Warriors will be in desperate need of his hot-shooting.

If his Game 5 performance is any indication of what is to come, then the Raptors should be very weary of  "Game 6 Klay".

Draymond Green's scoring

If the Warriors are to win the next two games, a lot will be decided on the defensive end, led by Draymond Green. He has been dominant as always on that side of the ball, contesting shots, forcing turnovers and collecting rebounds.

On the offensive end, Draymond has been the primary playmaker when the ball is forced out of Curry's hands. Green has constantly pushed the ball up the court to create transition offense, and has spread the ball around to open Warriors. With Durant out, however, the Warriors have desperately needed more scoring, and Green has also stepped up in that regard.

[RELATED: Dubs' championship resiliency resurfaces with KD out]

In the playoffs, Green has nearly doubled his scoring totals from the regular season, jumping from 7.4 points per game to 13.4, while shooting 50 percent from the field. During the regular season, the do-it-all forward scored in double-digits in 18 of 66 games played. So far this postseason, he has done so in 17 of 21 games played.

While his 3-point shot has left a lot to be desired, the Warriors should feel encouraged to see him hit a couple important shots from deep in Game 5. If the Warriors are to pull off this historic comeback, he will have to keep putting the ball in the hoop. 

Warriors fighting to go out on top despite uncertainty with free agency

Warriors fighting to go out on top despite uncertainty with free agency

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

The Warriors lost Game 3 of the NBA Finals Wednesday night, which means they trail two-games-to-one in a playoff series, something they have not experienced much since Steve Kerr took over as head coach of the team. The circumstances are quite unique and new to the Warriors, however, as they have not had to deal with mass health issues all at one time during their historic postseason runs.

With Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney missing the game Wednesday night, the Warriors struggled to combat an aggressive and efficient Toronto Raptors team. With potentially four games remaining in the entire season, getting Durant and Thompson back on the court will be imperative for the team's success. 

But looking forward past the Finals, the Warriors must be wary of how their team is performing right now without their top three unrestricted free agents. Normally one might say that the Warriors are getting a preview of how the team might look without them, but the fact of the matter is that most of the healthy players' place on next season's roster is filled with uncertainty. 

The list of Warriors players that are unrestricted or restricted free agents next season includes Durant, Thompson, Looney, DeMarcus Cousins, Jordan Bell, Quinn Cook, Jonas Jerebko, and Andrew Bogut. The team has an option to retain Alfonzo McKinnie, and also an option to opt-out of Shaun Livingston's contract. In fact, the only Warriors that have their spot on the team solidified next season are Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Damian Jones and Jacob Evans III.

In the Warriors' dream world, they are able to re-sign Durant, Thompson and Looney and then start constructing their bench with a combination of current teammates and available free agents that fill important needs like athletic wings and outside shooters. 

But with so much future uncertainty, the Warriors' depth is not only fighting for a title, but also for future contracts. Cook played a playoff career-high 27 minutes Wednesday night, and has become an integral piece to create spacing on the floor without two of their top scorers. Bell has had flashes of brilliance, but also some defensive miscues. Jerebko has come off the bench playing an always-ready-to-shoot, aggressive style of basketball. While the productivity for him has not always been there, it would be surprising if there isn't a team out there that admires his energy off the bench.

Bogut will return to Sydney after the season, but his play since rejoining the Warriors has led many to believe this same role and situation could present itself at the end of next season too. Finally, Cousins has overcome another major injury to prove his resiliency and impressive work ethic. While he can take a more modest contract, for his standards, with the Warriors next season, it is much more likely that Cousins receives a big money offer for a one-year "prove-it" type deal from another team.

[RELATED: Durant ruled out for Game 4]

On the ABC telecast Wednesday night, color-analyst Jeff Van Gundy commented that he believed the Warriors without Durant, Thompson or Looney would not have made the playoffs if they were to play with the current healthy roster for an entire regular season. Not only would the available Warriors disagree with that statement, they believe they are good enough to win an NBA title. There are potentially four games remaining in the NBA Finals, and the Warriors have some fighting to do if they are to get the three-peat. A majority of the roster does not know where they will be playing next season, but they are not letting that distract them from the task at hand.