After the Richmond Tigers’ second premiership in three years, coach Damien Hardwick said he had used US sports teams the San Antonio Spurs and the Detroit Red Wings as examples to live by.
With the season winding down and finals nearing, teams are beginning to rest players and prepare for the playoffs.
The Golden State Warriors have looked almost unstoppable this regular season and while the playoffs are a whole different ball game, it’s still difficult to see any team winning four games in a seven-game series against them.
In this article, I’m going to rank their Western conference contenders by whom I believe have the best chance of defeating the Warriors.
8. Houston Rockets
7. Utah Jazz
Literally no chance. The Rockets have been a shambles this season and the Jazz just do not have what it takes to defeat the Warriors.
6. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks did defeat the Warriors earlier in the season, the other three encounters between the teams resulted in the Mavericks losing by big margins. The Mavericks offence will not be able to keep up with the Warriors either, and while Dirk Nowitzki will likely play well, the Mavericks team just is not good enough to contend with the Warriors.
5. Memphis Grizzlies
4. Portland Trail Blazers
The Grizzlies have had a solid season and have played well considering the number of injuries they have endured. While the Grizzlies will give the Warriors trouble on the defensive end, Mike Conley is still injured and may or may not return for playoffs while Marc Gasol’s season is over. The Grizzlies have a solid and would sneak a game in the series but would ultimately lose to the Warriors.
Portland are in a similar boat. While Damien Lillard, CJ McCollum and co. have done an excellent job of bringing a team who was considered to be in rebuild mode after the loss of Lamarcus Aldridge into a comfortable seeding in the playoffs, the team simply does not have anyone to really contribute in scoring consistently besides Lillard and McCollum go consider them a real threat to the Warriors. They will probably sneak a win or two but will not have what it takes to defeat the Warriors.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder have had an impressive season, with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook having MVP calibre seasons.
The team will, however have issues with depth and over reliance on Durant and Westbrook in a series with the Warriors.
Durant and Westbrook score the majority of points for the Thunder in fourth quarters when the game is tight. If they are to defeat the Warriors, they will require help from the other starters to provide some clutch plays and score more than what they have done in crunch time during the regular season.
Their bench is also constantly outclassed by the Warriors and while playoffs are different and the reliance is placed more heavily on starters, the Warriors bench is still going to have a key advantage over the Thunder’s and may prove the difference maker.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers, in all their four meetings with the Warriors this season have ended up losing. However, all four games were tightly contested and the margin at the end of each of the matches was low. The Clippers, with the return of Blake Griffin, have what it takes to win against the Warriors.
Chris Paul has had another MVP calibre season, DeAndre Jordan has rebounding and defending terrifically, JJ Redick has had an outstanding shooting season. The team also consists of key veterans such as Paul Pierce, Jamal Crawford and Jeff Green who can provide scoring in the crunch. Austin Rivers has also stepped up this season and had some good outings.
They can beat the Warriors, that’s a fact.
In a seven game series? Highly debatable.
The one issue surrounding the Clippers is their playoff history. They can never seem to get past the second round and have always struggled in the playoffs.
While they have had a great regular season campaign, playoffs is a whole other ball game. Just ask the 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks and the Toronto Raptors.
If their playoff performance history is any indication, the Clippers will not have what it takes to defeat the Warriors. While they have the talent to do so, they just can’t seem to handle the pressure of the postseason.
1. San Antonio Spurs
The obvious choice to beat the Warriors and both teams have been predicted to be duking it out in the Western Conference Finals. The Spurs have had an incredible season and have a great chance of defeating the Warriors. They have received great seasons from Kawhi Leonard, who is incredible both offensively and defensively, Lamarcus Aldridge and the big three of Duncan, Manu and Parker have all had solid seasons as well.
Their playoff experience, incredible coaching under Greg Poppovich, depth and star power make them the perfect match for the Warriors. This series will be a classic.