The 2014-15 Golden State Warriors were, in a word, dominant. They finished with the best record in the league (67-15), they finished with far and away the best home record in the league (39-2), they have the best defense in the league, they have the best shooters in the league, they have a great coach, and they might have the NBA MVP.
Yes, everything came together, and, as a result, the Warriors seem destined to win a championship.
But will they?
“There are factors involved here,” Warriors play-by-play man Tim Roye said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “This is their third straight year in the playoffs. They got to the second round the first year (and) went to seven games without Andrew Bogut last year against a good Clipper team that was inspired because of all the stuff that had gone on (with Donald Sterling). And so this year, I think it all just kind of came together. They tweaked their offense. Steve Kerr did a great job of doing that. They’re a year older, they’re a year better and they kept their core together.”
And yet, there are question marks. This Warriors team has never played in the Finals. Heck, it’s never played in the conference finals. How might the Warriors respond against, say, the Spurs? Or the Grizzlies? Or the Clippers, who knocked them out last year?”
“In the Western Conference, I think there’s probably six teams that you could say are legitimate championship contenders to move on to the Finals because they’re all good,” Roye said. “For a long time, the Warriors were setting all these franchise records. Best record in the league. For a long time this year – for a couple of months – every time you looked up, the Grizzlies were two games back. They were hanging around all year long. So there are some factors involved here.”
Then you look at the East. There’s Atlanta, there’s Chicago, and, oh yeah, there’s Cleveland.
“You can’t discount any team that has LeBron,” Roye said. “With all the Finals he has been in, with the fact that – especially in his early days in Cleveland – the cast around him wasn’t all that strong, you can’t discount him. And the Bulls are tough. The Hawks are good. But I have to tell you: This Warriors team is deep. It’s deep and it’s set up to survive a small injury. It’s set up to play defense, and they’ve got two of the best shooters I’ve ever seen.”
Those shooters, of course, are Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who averaged 23.8 and 21.7 points, respectively, this season.
The Warriors open against the Pelicans this Saturday ay 3:30 p.m. ET. Golden State went 3-1 against New Orleans this year, but one game went to overtime, and another game – the most recent one – resulted in a 103-100 Pelicans win.
“You have to give the Pelicans credit,” Roye said. “They beat the Warriors . . . in a game the Warriors didn’t have to have but the Pelicans needed.”
The Pelicans also beat the Spurs, 108-103, on Wednesday to secure a playoff berth.
“That was impressive by New Orleans,” Roye said. “San Antonio wanted that game, (but) they didn’t need it. They’re the Spurs. They don’t care who they play and where they play. I’m not discounting the Spurs until we’re all gathered at the funeral. Until that time, I am not discounting that team. That team just keeps coming at you.
“But that was a great win for them,” Roye said, getting back to the Pelicans. “They had to have that win and they did it. They were controlling that game for most of the night. The Spurs made a nice late run, but the Pelicans controlled that game. And (Anthony)Davis (had) a couple blocks coming down the stretch sealed it up. But they’re a tough team.”
A tough team with a point guard. Jrue Holiday, who had been out since January with a leg injury, played in three of New Orleans’ final four games. In fact, he played 25 minutes against the Spurs, finishing with 11 points and four assists.
“With Holiday back, that changes their dynamic because he’s a true point guard and I don’t think they really had one,” Roye said. “Norris Cole is a little bit of a point guard, but Jrue Holiday is a true point guard. He’s going to get people line up in the right spots so they can be more effective.”