Warriors are better with Kevin Durant despite playoff success without him

Warriors are better with Kevin Durant despite playoff success without him

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 are back in the Western Conference finals for a fifth straight season. I hope all the Warriors fans that stuck it out through the miserable years still take the time to cherish this run and don't take it for granted.

Obviously, new expectations get set after experiencing so much success now, but getting back to the conference finals is no small feat, just ask every other NBA franchise.

Here are some of my thoughts and notes from last night's Warriors victory:

Dubs still better with KD

No, the Warriors are NOT better without Kevin Durant. It is hard to believe that this conversation is even happening. 

Sure, some can perhaps say that they enjoy the style of basketball more when Steph Curry is going off and the team is constantly whipping the ball around. Others may even point to the great Warriors' record when Steph plays without Durant. But the Warriors absolutely are a better team when KD is playing.

Think about the luxury the Warriors have. They lost potentially the best player on the planet to a calf strain, and yet they are able to still win. Not many other teams would be able to withstand that type of loss.

If Steph were to go down or struggle, Durant would be there to take over in his place (something he has done in the playoffs a few times before). I caught myself multiple times last night watching the game -- seeing the Warriors dominate and force mismatches against the Blazers' defense -- and thinking, "wow, what if Kevin Durant were also playing?" The Blazers already were having issues defending Steph on ball screens. Can you imagine if Kevin Durant was out there on the wing ready to exploit that? I can.

And then on defense, Durant's length and athleticism can be a nightmare for opposing teams -- wait, why am I still trying to prove this?

Klay the thief

Klay Thompson is a steals machine this season. I have chronicled Klay's exceptional season on defense throughout the year, but I think it is important yet again to give an example of what makes him so great.

It was obvious throughout Game 1 that Klay was playing great on-ball defense against Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Both players had a tough time separating from Klay's hounding defense and their numbers reflected it.

As for Klay's stats, there has been one part of the box score that I have been highlighting this whole season: steals.

Last season, Thompson had three or more steals in three games. When including regular season and postseason, that is a total of three out of 94 games played. This season, after another game with three steals last night, Klay now has 15 such games out of 91 played. He has always been a fantastic defender, but this season he has taken his defensive game to a whole new level.

Iguodala's quiet night

Andre Iguodala only attempted three field goals in Game 1. Going into the Western Conference finals, Iguodala's fewest shot attempts in a playoff game had been six.

So, why did Andre only shoot the ball three times in Game 1? Simply, he did not have to shoot. Most of Iguodala's shot attempts this season have come when teams send double teams at Durant and Curry, freeing up the Warriors' offense by sending a playmaker like Draymond Green slicing right down the middle of the opposing defense. Iguodala will stand on a corner or wing, keeping his hands ready, and wait for his defender to switch on to the ball handler. Once the ball reaches him, his mind is already made up that he has to take the wide-open shot.

As it has been illustrated and discussed at great lengths already, the Blazers did not double or trap Steph. Therefore, Curry and Thompson were free to fire away from deep, thus letting Iguodala off the hook. Everyone expects the Blazers to change up their defensive scheme next game, so Iguodala might be in line for a lot more attempts Thursday.

[RELATED: Warriors shouldn't look too far ahead, like they did vs. Clippers]

Everyone in the green

A statistical anomaly occurred in the box score last night. I'm sure this has happened more than once this season, but it still was shocking to see the plus-minus in the box score.

Every single player on the active Warriors roster played last night, and every single one of them had a positive plus-minus. That means that even for players that played only a couple minutes, i.e. Damian Jones, the Warriors outscored the Blazers while he was on the court.

But what makes that observation even more eye-popping, is that every single player on the Blazers' roster recorded a negative plus-minus in the game. Not one single Blazers player was on the court for time in which the Blazers outscored the Warriors. Now THAT is crazy.

Why does Raptors fan Drake have Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant tattoos?


Why does Raptors fan Drake have Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant tattoos?

Well, this is awkward …

Drake must be ecstatic that his Toronto Raptors finally are in the NBA Finals, but he’ll also be repping the opponents when Game 1 is played Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena. That’s because the rapper apparently has tattoos honoring Warriors stars Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant on his left arm.

San Jose Mercury News columnist Dieter Kurtenbach reminded everyone of Drake’s Steph and KD ink right after the Raptors clinched their Finals berth Saturday night in Toronto.

Drake has a long history with the Warriors. He has attended games at Oracle Arena and jawed with/befriended many of the players, including Curry, Durant and Draymond Green. He’s a huge basketball fan who seemingly attends college and pro games whenever and wherever he can, and his habit of wearing different teams’ gear and posing for pictures with athletes has led to the infamous “Drake curse."

That curse wasn’t in effect in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals -- Drake sat in the front row as the Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks for the right to meet the Warriors in the Finals. Perhaps the tattoos, which The Heavy points out Drake seemingly has never confirmed, are a long play, cursing the Warriors’ biggest stars so his Raptors finally can win the NBA championship. Perhaps they're just the latest additions to Drake's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover-esque collection of tattoos that include tributes to Sade, Rihanna, Aaliyah and various family members and friends.

Whatever the reason, Drake has the tattoos. Whether they’re a curse or an honor remains to be seen, but you can bet he’ll cover them up during the Finals.

Patrick McCaw celebrates making third NBA Finals; Warriors fans not amused


Patrick McCaw celebrates making third NBA Finals; Warriors fans not amused

Patrick McCaw didn’t want to be a Warrior. That much was clear, after he turned down the team’s two-year, $4 million contract offer last year.

McCaw later joined the Cavaliers on a $3 million deal that the Warriors declined to match, and he called his decision not to rejoin Golden State “a personal thing,” nothing more.

Now a Raptor after the Cavs waived him in January, McCaw shared another personal thing Saturday night after Toronto advanced to the NBA Finals -- something the 23-year-old swingman knows a lot about from his Warriors stint.

Say what you want indeed. And Warriors fans did, mostly with pictures and GIFs.

Most fans’ issues centered around McCaw’s contributions to the Raptors’ NBA Finals advancement. They could be called, well, less than impressive. He scored two points in 36 total minutes across seven playoff games, and he hasn’t seen the court for the Raptors since Game 6 against the 76ers in the second round. That was 16 days ago.

McCaw's regular-season numbers weren't great, either, as he averaged 2.7 points, 1.7 rebounds and 13.2 minutes in 26 games, with only one start, for Toronto.

[RELATED: How Warriors, Raptors stack up ahead of NBA Finals matchup]

Warriors Outsider Drew Shiller had some thoughts …

Playing time be damned, McCaw indeed has a chance for his third consecutive NBA championship ring. Given the circumstances, though, don’t expect Dub Nation to be too excited for someone for whom they once rooted -- if he even plays in the best-of-seven series.