Warriors

NBA rumors: Warriors worried about chances to win Finals without Kevin Durant

NBA rumors: Warriors worried about chances to win Finals without Kevin Durant

No matter who the Warriors ended up facing in the 2019 NBA Finals, it wasn't going to be a walk in the park, especially without Kevin Durant.

While the Warriors were able to eliminate the Houston Rockets and roll over the Portland Trail Blazers without Durant, the two-time defending NBA champions have been adamant that they do in fact need Durant and are better with him in the lineup. 

Many perceived the Warriors' constant gushing about the mercurial injured star as a way to try and convince him to stay in free agency, but that apparently wasn't the case.

The Warriors reportedly were very aware of how difficult their NBA Finals task would be without Durant, and have been worried about the prospect of playing either the Toronto Raptors or Milwaukee Bucks without him for some time, ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported Friday.

"Privately, the Warriors had been concerned about their chances to beat Toronto or Milwaukee in the Finals if Durant wasn't able to play," Shelburne writes. "They knew they needed him as a failsafe on offense and maybe even more at the defensive end, given potential matchups with Kawhi Leonard or Giannis Antetokounmpo."

That private concern was warranted as seen Thursday night when the Raptors controlled most of the game en route to a 118-109 win in Game 1 at Scotiabank Arena.

While the Warriors' plan to swarm Leonard early and often was effective, the Raptors star was more than willing to pass out of the crowd and let Pascal Siakam (32 points), Marc Gasol (20) and the rest of Toronto's role players go to work.

It was on the offensive end where the Warriors missed Durant the most in Game 1.

Toronto's lengthy, athletic defense was focused on not letting Steph Curry get any open looks from 3-point range. The Raptors mixed up their coverages on Curry, doing everything they could to force him inside the 3-point line. While Curry still dropped 34, Klay Thompson (21) and Draymond Green (10) were the only other Warriors to score in double figures. Green struggled for most of the night, and Thompson was frustrated by the Raptors' defense from the opening tip, He knocked down a few in-rhythm jumpers, but was otherwise ineffective in Game 1.

Golden State desperately needed its cheat code in Game 1. No one truly can stop Durant, he just sometimes misses shots. The ability to throw Durant the ball on the wing or at the elbow when things aren't going well and have him get a quality look is something the Warriors missed in Game 1 and will continue to miss until Durant comes back, if he does return at all.

The 2014 NBA MVP is unlikely to play in Game 2 but Durant reportedly could come back midway through the series despite the fact the injury would normally keep him out much longer.

[RELATED: Why Warriors must see Raptors as toughest NBA Finals foe yet]

Despite the Game 1 loss, the Warriors remain outwardly confident they can complete their three-peat. 

But it won't be easy, especially without Durant.

Warriors' Steph Curry jokes about waking up in NBA's Orlando bubble

Warriors' Steph Curry jokes about waking up in NBA's Orlando bubble

Steph Curry is jonesin' to play basketball.

The Warriors superstar misses the game so much that when he woke up on a recent morning, he thought he was in the NBA's Orlando bubble.

OK, maybe not. Clearly, Steph needs to work on his acting skills. But the sentiment isn't too far off.

After five straight trips to the NBA Finals that saw Curry play roughly an extra 20 games a season, the two-time NBA MVP broke his hand in the fourth game of the 2019-20 season. He returned to play in one game in March, but a combination of Curry catching the flu and the coronavirus shutdown ended his season early.

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

So between the end of the 2019 NBA Finals on June 13, 2019 and the potential start of the 2020-21 NBA season in December, Curry will have played five regular-season games in a year and a half.

So you can understand why Curry is dreaming of being in Orlando.

Alas, the Warriors finished the 2019-20 season with the worst record (15-50) in the NBA. They were one of eight NBA teams not invited to the NBA season restart at the Disney World complex in Orlando. The combination of Curry's injury, Klay Thompson's ACL injury and Kevin Durant's departure crushed the Warriors' hopes of a sixth straight NBA Finals appearance.

The bright side (of the bed) for Curry is that his body has been given an extended break, the longest of his professional career. After five long seasons, a long 18-month break could do Curry a lot of good.

[RELATED: Simmons wonders if Lillard is better than Steph]

The Warriors are expecting Curry and Thompson to come back healthy and rested when the 2020-21 season starts, ready for a return to NBA title contention.

Based on the video Curry posted, he's getting plenty of rest.

Bill Simmons wonders whether Damian Lillard is better than Steph Curry

Bill Simmons wonders whether Damian Lillard is better than Steph Curry

Steph Curry is a better basketball player than Damian Lillard.

We don't make that declaration in an attempt to slight Dame, because the Portland Trail Blazers star is awesome. We certainly aren't rooting against the Oakland native or saying he is overrated.

But we feel compelled to defend Steph when necessary. And we are doing that now because of the following back-and-forth that took place Monday on "The Bill Simmons Podcast."

Simmons: "Dame -- I don't know where he is on the top-10 players in the league list and what the qualifications are -- but is Curry better than him at this point?"

Ryen Russillo: "Oh come on. Let's take it easy. Don't do this when Curry's missed a year."

Simmons: "I'm not talking about career. I'm not talking playoff chops (or) stuff like that. I'm just talking game-to-game, the stuff Dame is doing now consistently, reminds me of Curry. I feel like he's money. He's in the top eight or nine for me now. And I don't know what the list is. But I just think he's great."

Lillard is great. No doubt about it. And the 30-year-old was fantastic in Portland's first two games in the Orlando bubble.

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

But we need to remind everybody -- again -- what happened during the Warriors' sweep of the Blazers in the 2019 Western Conference finals:

Curry: 36.5 points, 7.3 assists, 46.9 percent overall, 42.6 percent 3s
Lillard: 22.3 points, 8.5 assists, 37.1 percent overall, 36.8 percent 3s

Yes, Lillard is putting up big statistics this season with 28.9 points and 8.0 assists per game. But his shooting numbers -- 45.6 percent overall and 39.1 percent from 3-point range -- don't match up to what Steph did last season: 47.2 percent overall and 43.7 percent from beyond the arc.

[RELATED: The disrespect Steph gets absolutely blows Redick's mind]

The day possibly will come when Dame is considered the superior player by the majority of the basketball world. We aren't that naive.

But it definitely has not arrived yet.

So the answer to Simmons's question is ...

... "yes."

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