Stephen Curry Out for First Round of Playoffs
March 14, 1988, a day that will live in infamy. What am I referring to you may ask? I am referring to the birth of the greatest three point shooter in the history of the NBA, Stephen Curry. From his amazing Cinderella Elite 8 run with his alma mater Davidson Wildcats in 2008, to two NBA championships in 2015 and 2017, Curry has become the face of the league for the past 5 years. That is until his 2018 campaign went to pieces. How? Well, currently the Warriors are in the Playoffs with a 54-19 record which seems normal for the Warriors.
But let's take it back to December 2017 when Steph originally hurt his ankle against the Pelicans. Strike 1. Fast forward to March 9 where Curry hobbles off the court against the Spurs only to screw up his ankle once again. Strike 2. Fast forward to two weeks later when Golden State played the Hawks. Curry is tangled up with teammate JaVale McGee and comes off the court for the third time. This time however, Curry receives the worst possible news the Warriors could get at this time and this late in the season. A Grade 2 MCL sprain. STRIKE 3! And to make matters worse, Coach Steve Kerr announced to the press that Sunday that "there's no way he's playing in the first round". Has Curry's absence shown in the Warriors' gameplay. Try losing 5 of your last 8 games. Try losing your last game against a possible first round opponent in the Utah Jazz, IN YOUR OWN HOUSE!!! As you can probably tell, the Warriors have suffered without Curry on the floor. This just means more power for James Harden and the Rockets and everybody else in the Western Conference. How does this impact the shift of power in the West?
Well, let's just say that with the way they're playing as of now, the Warriors are not getting the number one seed. Does this mean a chance for seeds 3-8 to dethrone Golden State and Houston for a deep playoff run? Absolutely. Take Portland for instance. Despite snapping their incredible 13 game win streak, the Blazers have won 14 of their last 16 with just 9 games left to go in the season. And if everything goes right and Portland wins their last 9 and Golden State loses their last 9, Portland gets the number two seed. That probably won't happen, but in terms of their conference and division standings, Portland is 2 games ahead of the Thunder for #3 in the West and two games ahead of the Thunder for the division.
Now you might be asking yourselves, what the hell does this have to do with the Warriors? Well, think about it. This season, Portland is 2-1 against Golden State with no upcoming matchups left in the season. This means that if the current standings stay at the end of the season and the Blazers win their first round matchup against the #6 seed, Portland would face Golden State in the Western Semifinals. Conclusion? The Blazers are the Warriors' biggest threat both this season, and possibly in this upcoming postseason. Now I know some of you might be saying that the Rockets are the Warriors biggest threat. But just hear me out. If for some magical reason the Warriors get upset by the #7 seed, that means the only other real powerhouses/threats in this Western Conference postseason would be Houston, Portland, and Oklahoma City. Even if Golden State did get past the first and second rounds of the Playoffs, they would get crushed by the Rockets in the Western Conference Finals given two of the three previous games against Houston were losses.
So to recap, Curry injures his ankle twice and sprains his MCL forcing him to be out for the rest of the regular season and first round of the Playoffs. This now turns the Warriors into what they were before Steph Curry, losing 5 of their last 8 games. Therefore, the top spot belongs to Houston with seeds 3-8 fighting to dethrone both the Rockets and Golden State. Biggest threat to the Warriors? Portland. Biggest upset possibility in the first round? Minnesota. Don't ask why it's just that Jeff Teague and Karl Anthony-Towns would be too much for Kevin Durant and Draymond Green to handle. Did I also mention Durant is out for Tuesday against the Pacers because of a "rib" injury. Yeah right. Kerr's just saving their asses for the Playoffs. Good luck with that.
Unlike years of the past where the Warriors seem to be dominant and go to every NBA Finals ever, 2018 seems to be the most competitive year yet for the Western Conference given just how much the Warriors have gone through this season with injury (talk about a championship hangover, eh?). And what does this mean for next month's Postseason? Everyone in this wild Western Conference will be out to get the Warriors. Just think. This season the Timberwolves went from the third seed at the start of the season to now the seventh seed with about three weeks left. Likewise, the Blazers went from the #7 seed before February 14, to now the #3 seed with 9 games to go thanks to the month long winning streak. Point being, thanks to Steph Curry's injury, the Warriors are bound to get dethroned.
The phrase too much of a good thing has applied to the past three seasons of the NBA in that there has not been an NBA Finals series with the Cavaliers and Warriors since 2014 (Heat Vs. Spurs). The 2018 NBA Playoffs will be different in that there will be teams not named the Warriors and/or Rockets that will be determined to make deep playoff runs (i.e. Portland, OKC, New Orleans). And because of one little Grade 2 MCL sprain, the Warriors may not make a deep Playoff run due to lack of leadership and depth. This will make room for other teams (including Eastern Conference teams) to shock the critics and show them why we should not have round 4 of this B.S. Which makes me wonder...
If there will be no Cavs and Warriors NBA Finals series due to an early Playoffs exit by Golden State...
Who will be the champion?
Dark Horse NBA Finals Matchup: Celtics Vs. Blazers. A third time these teams would meet would be nothing less than appealing and exciting! Portland would have a chance at revenge due to losses both in Boston and at the Moda Center. Plus, who would not want to see two of the best point guards in the game in Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving to go up against each other on the NBA's biggest stage.
Prediction: Portland in 6.