Midway into the regular season, veteran playoff teams are pacing themselves for the playoffs. Among all the teams gunning for a title, the Golden State Warriors are perhaps the most experienced. Not just because of their wins, but mainly because of their losses — particularly the 2016 NBA Finals, where they botched their historic 73-win season.
All you need is one win on the road
Six years after their heartbreaking loss, star forward Draymond Green is approaching the postseason with caution. The Dubs have reached the pinnacle of regular-season success in 2016, and he knows how futile a team's win-loss record is if they can't bring the title home. So this time around, Green is more strategic in his mindset. In his mind, homecourt advantage doesn't mean much in the postseason.
"The goal is to go win one on the road anyway. Whether you're trying to close out in four, closeout in five or closeout in six or seven. The goal is to always go win one on the road. If we're the two seed, you just gotta go win one on the road anyway. After going through it so many times, you understand -- to exhaust yourself for the one seed -- yeah, you get an extra game at home in the series or a closeout game at home. But I've won Game 7s on the road and lost Game 7s at home, so it don't really matter. If you can get it, great, but I don't feel like and I don't feel like anyone in this organization feels like it's worth it to exhaust yourself trying to chase after it."
"If you're healthy, then you're always trying to win every game you can win. But if you're not healthy then there's no use for rolling guys out there and risking more injury or if some guy's a little beat up then risking that possibly getting worse. It's not worth it,"
Draymond Green, NBC Sports.
Green was most likely talking about the 2019 NBA Finals — their latest finals trip. To recall, injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson derailed their chances at a three-peat. Those injuries were almost expected in hindsight, given the Warriors' long grind leading to that point.
Draymond didn't mention their 2016 NBA Finals meltdown against the Cleveland Cavaliers. But it would be foolish not to infer that he was referring to that series — the set of seven games that gave him the greatest insights about playoff ball. As for one, the Warriors had all the advantages entering that series. Stephen Curry had just drained a record 402 3-pointers and single-handedly changed the game. Their 73-win regular season proved they knew how to win.
Perhaps this is why they lost. As cliche as it sounds, it would've greatly benefitted the Warriors if they lost more games in the regular season. That's because for every after loss, they would be forced to go back to the drawing board and evaluate their performance. Instead, those nine losses reminded them that they were invincible.
Case in point: after Kyrie Irving's dagger 3-pointer, the Warriors were down by three points with 53.0 seconds left. The safe way to go about it would be to quickly score two points, put on their best defensive stance, and get another crack at it in the next offensive possession.
But as we saw, the Warriors — particularly Curry — drained around 13 seconds off the clock trying to shake off Kevin Love for a crack at a game-tying 3-pointer. This was the only option for the Warriors — who, entering that Game 7 — were so used to Curry draining crazy shot after crazy shot. And so when Steph missed, the Warriors literally didn't know what to do. They were not used to having their backs against the wall. And that's why they lost.