The 2016 Warriors Have Returned For All Our Souls

05.19.19 1 month ago

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PORTLAND — It’s almost as if they have something to prove. Almost as if — despite their protestations — they’ve absorbed all the noise about their dynasty barreling toward its ignominious end, whether that’s here in these playoffs against one of the league’s precocious upstarts, or this summer when brittle egos and/or the siren song of wealth and personal vindication threaten to undermine the juggernaut they’ve built over the last five seasons.

Draymond Green has certainly heard it. It’s been a thorn in his side even before his high-profile incident with Kevin Durant at the start of the season. You can bet Steph Curry has, too. Publicly, they claim to tune it all out. But the volume got turned up to 11 in the second round against Houston when Durant went down with a calf strain and suddenly the pundits were trumpeting a premature end to the defending champs’ ignoble reign over the NBA.

Instead, the Warriors — instantly and effortlessly — reverted back to the 2016 Decepticon version of themselves and are leaving a trail of broken dreams in their wake. That’s started with Steph, whose reputation has crumpled under the gravity of Durant’s deteriorating orbit but has been steadily regaining form in his absence.

He’s now scored 30 or more points in the last four games and is looking more and more like the two-time MVP who took the NBA by storm and forever altered the way we play and think about basketball. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. With their Game 3 win on Saturday to take a historically-insurmountable 3-0 series lead over the Blazers in the West Finals, they are now 30-1 in games that Steph has played without Durant the last three seasons, including 6-0 in the postseason. Since Durant went down, Curry is averaging 35.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists, while shooting 41 percent from three.

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