The Golden State Warriors had one of the most convincing championship runs in recent memory last season.
After a 67-15 regular season with a historic margin of victory, the Warriors were never pushed to more than six games in the playoffs and Finals, eventually knocking off the Cavaliers in six games to win the championship.
While there was no doubting how good the Warriors were – they had the best defense and second-best offense last year – they had a bit of luck on their side, as all teams do, in winning the championship.
First, the Warriors never suffered any serious injuries – something that was evident when they beat a battered Cavs team missing Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.
However, the schedule also favored them by sheer chance. They faced a Pelicans team without Jrue Holiday in the first round while the Clippers took out their No. 1 opposition, the Spurs, for them. In the second round, they faced a Grizzlies team with an injured Mike Conley, while the Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead to the Rockets. In the third round, the Warriors faced a Rockets team without Patrick Beverley and with a hobbled Dwight Howard. They then faced the hobbled Cavs.
The Clippers are aware of this, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe pointed out. Clippers guard J.J. Redick told Lowe of the Clippers’ collapse to the Rockets:
I’m not saying we definitely would have beaten Golden State, but if you make the conference finals, you have a chance. … The championship window in the West is so narrow. Ours might only be open another couple of years. But you need some breaks. Golden State was the best team in the league, but they also had everything go right for them. They didn’t have one bad break.”
Doc Rivers added, “You need luck in the West. Look at Golden State. They didn’t have to play us or the Spurs. But that’s also a lesson for us: When you have a chance to close, you have to do it.”
The Warriors are evidently getting fed up with the growing narrative that they were lucky to win the championship.
Stephen Curry fired back at the idea (via Ethan Strauss):
“I apologize for us being healthy. I apologize for us playing who was in front of us. I apologize for all the accolades we received as a team and individually. I’m very, truly sorry, and we’ll rectify that situation this year.”
Steph Curry apologizes for the Warriors success pic.twitter.com/pa6bCqh49d
— FanJam (@FanJam) October 13, 2015
Draymond Green also ranted about that perception before trailing off into a questionable comparison:
Full Draymond quote from shootaround today pic.twitter.com/XUq9mDZ2Em
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) October 13, 2015
Slightly distasteful comparisons aside, the Warriors are right to be upset by this. All teams have lucky and unlucky breaks in the regular season. Nobody criticizes the Thunder for an injury-riddled regular season, or the Cavs for getting injured in the postseason, so the Warriors can’t be criticized for having good luck throughout the year.
As for matchups, while the Clippers or Spurs would have perhaps given the Warriors their biggest tests in the playoffs, for a team that was almost unilaterally the best in the league at everything – record, margin of victory, defense, and the second-best offense – it wasn’t surprising to see them win the whole thing.
The Warriors now have targets on their back this season, and an improved Western Conference should only make things more interesting.