Golden State match expectations by reaching Finals with just three defeats

Jay Asser 09:21 30/05/2015
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Celebrations: West champions.

The Golden State Warriors have impressively rolled through the Western Conference playoff gauntlet to reach their first NBA Finals in 40 years.

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Although they won an NBA-best 67 games in the regular season, Golden State’s lack of deep playoff experience meant a trip to the Finals was far from a foregone conclusion.

Yet they barely missed a beat as they stormed through the first, second and third round to reach the sport’s ultimate stage for the first time since winning the title in 1975.

Golden State swept the eighthseeded New Orleans Pelicans and then took down the dark horse Memphis Grizzlies in six before eliminating the Houston Rockets in five.

Memphis was the only team to give the Warriors any trouble when the favourites found themselves in a 2-1 series hole with a crucial Game 4 in the hostile environment of FedExForum.

It was arguably the first and only time in the entire season that Golden State faced pressure or had their backs against the wall and they responded in dominating fashion with seven wins in their next eight contests.

Expectations have changed for the Warriors throughout the year. Few, if any, foresaw them finishing top of the standings in the regular season, but those expectations had turned into Finals aspirations by the time they began their journey in the playoffs.

“Relieved,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said after the 104-90 Game 5 over Houston: “I always think of Pat Riley’s great quote: ‘When you’re coaching in the NBA, there’s winning and there’s misery’. And he’s right. Winning feels like a relief more than anything most of the time.

“But to get to the Finals, first time in 40 years for the Warriors, it’s more than relief. It’s joy. Our players are feeling it. I know our fans are. I’m happy for everybody, especially our fans. Forty years is a long time.”

MVP Stephen Curry has in some ways raised his game in the postseason, averaging 29.2 points on 46.1 per cent shooting from the field and 43.7 per cent shooting from distance, along with 6.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds.

He’s already defeated the Pelicans’ young superstar Anthony Davis, Grizzlies’ All-Star centre Marc Gasol and MVP runner-up James Harden of the Rockets.

If Golden State win the Finals over the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James, Curry will crown his magnificent year by becoming the first player to ever take down all four other members of the All-NBA First Team en route to a championship.

The dynamic guard said after defeating Houston: “It was special, I think, because everybody was kind of enjoying the moment. We wanted to appreciate the moment, not take it for granted, because it was something that we’ve been waiting for and wanted to close out tonight.

“But you kind of take it for what it is because you have four more wins and you don’t want to get too ahead of yourself. We’re going to appreciate what we’ve done because we’ve got to be proud of winning the Western Conference. That was tough all year long, and we’re excited about the next step.”

Both Golden State and Cleveland will have ample time to rest and recover before Game 1 of the Finals tips-off on Thursday.

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