Warriors

Austin Rivers: Rockets thought Warriors would fold without Kevin Durant

Austin Rivers: Rockets thought Warriors would fold without Kevin Durant

When Kevin Durant went down with a strained calf during Game 5 of the Warriors' second-round NBA playoff series with the Houston Rockets, many believed the two-time defending champions would be pushed over in Game 6, setting up a decisive Game 7.

Apparently, you can count the Rockets among those who doubted the Warriors' mental toughness.

Rockets backup guard Austin Rivers was a guest on Friday's edition of ESPN's "First Take," and he admitted Houston believed Game 6 would be easy.

"I'll be honest," River said, "the consensus in the locker room is, you know, it was 2-2, we came back in that Game 5, we were down like 17 at one point, and then KD goes down. That first timeout, it was like, 'Yo, this is it. This is our chance. We have to take this.' But that's why you never underestimate a championship team. They just figure out ways to do things. They just kept playing.

"We expected Game 6 to be, 'All right, we'll come out, punch them in the mouth. They'll quit. Fold.' And then be like, 'Let's try and get Game 7.' We came around and messed around, and they're like, 'They're not taking this game.' It went downhill from there."

Pride cometh before the fall.

Expecting a championship-tested team to quit when it has a chance to eliminate its biggest rival is next-level arrogance from the Rockets. Arrogance that, as Rivers pointed out, came back to bite them when Steph Curry exploded for 33 second-half points to send Houston packing after Game 6.

[RELATED: Warriors now facing prospect of playing Finals without KD]

It's been a summer of tough looks for the Rockets.

Why Warriors shouldn't be concerned about Suns' undefeated bubble run

Why Warriors shouldn't be concerned about Suns' undefeated bubble run

The Phoenix Suns deserve a ton of credit for going a perfect 8-0 in the Orlando bubble, and nearly earning their way into the play-in tournament between the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds in the Western Conference.

Devin Booker was unbelievable, averaging 30.5 points and 6.0 assists, while shooting over 50 percent from the field. One of the best moments out of all of the seeding games was his game winner vs. the LA Clippers at the buzzer.

(Quick side note -- the team's official Twitter account produced some incredible content over the last couple of weeks, and pretty much became a must-follow.)

Because of what the Suns accomplished in the 2019-20 season restart, there are people across the basketball world who are expecting big things next season.

Should the Warriors view Phoenix as a legitimate threat in the West, or at the very least a team that definitely will be competing for a playoff spot? In short, the answer is no. Pump the brakes.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

It just was one week ago when Golden State forward Draymond Green disparaged the Suns' organization, saying he wishes Booker could leave the franchise because playing there is "not good for his career." Since 2010 -- when the Suns last made the playoffs -- they have finished with a winning record one time. Furthermore, it's well known that ownership isn't exactly committed to spending the necessary money on the roster, and it's fair to assume things could get worse on the financial front because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The reality is that Phoenix entered the bubble with no expectations whatsoever, and absolutely had nothing to lose. As mentioned before, they should be showered with praise for not mailing it in. They took it to heart to improve individually and collectively, and wanted to prove the NBA right simply for including them.

Mission accomplished.

But yours truly isn't going to take the Suns seriously until we see how they perform when legitimate stakes are on the line. Let's see if they can rise to the occasion when the opposition treats them like a legitimate threat, and they aren't able to sneak up on teams.

If fans return to arenas at some point next season, will the Suns be able to go on the road and win consistently? When adversity hits and they're feeling pressure, how will they respond?

Furthermore, while it's way too early to fully project the landscape (we got to see what happens with the NBA draft and free agency in October), we know the Western Conference is loaded.

[RELATED: Will Dubs contend for '21 title? 'Hell yes,' Kirk Lacob says]

The nine 2020 playoff teams aren't going anywhere, and the New Orleans Pelicans (if they stay healthy) should be vastly improved. And then there's the Warriors, who typically play the Suns four times each season because they're in the same division. The Dubs expect to go from the team with the worst record in the NBA, to legitimate 2020-21 title contenders.

Plain and simple -- it's going to be very, very hard for the Suns to reach the postseason next year. And we doubt the Warriors are losing any sleep thinking about the franchise coach Steve Kerr was the general manager of from 2007 to 2010.

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Warriors fans might take coronavirus tests upon entering Chase Center

Warriors fans might take coronavirus tests upon entering Chase Center

Joe Lacob doesn't sound concerned at all about revamping the roster this October to put the Warriors in position to contend for the title next season.

In fact, it seems like Golden State's owner and CEO is more focused on another key area.

"Our biggest challenge is going to be the virus and getting fans back in the stands," Lacob told Larry Beil this week on ABC7's "With Authority" podcast. "That's what we are built to do -- have a great audience and entertain our fans, as well as win a championship. So we really want to do that.

"We're working really hard in that regard, to try to figure out a way that we can resume play with fans."

Lacob uniquely is positioned to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, as he earned a master's in epidemiology from UCLA. He never thought that degree would be put to use in his professional life.

But now, it has great importance. And Lacob is at the forefront of the NBA's quest to get fans in arenas for games as soon as possible.

"I've worked with the league extensively on the testing strategies with respect to what's going on in the bubble," he told Beil. "And we're actually doing the same thing in terms of trying to lead the way (for) how we're going to maybe test fans as an example -- if need be -- when we resume play."

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

So yes -- if you want to attend a Dubs game at Chase Center next season, it's possible that you will get tested for COVID-19 -- and get an immediate result -- before you are permitted to enter the building.

Then again, this probably only becomes a possibility if the city of San Francisco and public health experts give the Warriors clearance to allow fans through the doors. Additionally, it's possible the NBA returns to some form of a bubble format and avoids games in local markets altogether.

Myriad options remain on the table, and there is no timetable for when the league's plan will be finalized.

[RELATED: Report: Dubs might get clearance for team practices at Chase]

But regardless of the logistics, Lacob expects the Warriors to win a lot of games no matter where they are played.

"It really does look like things are lining up for us to be a very good team next year," he said. "It's hard to say (when) you're the worst team in the league that you're gonna be a contender for the title -- but I do think we will be."

Follow @DrewShiller on Twitter and Instagram