Keidel: Don’t Underestimate The Warriors Like I Did

By Jason Keidel

You can’t be the braggart when you’re right and then duck behind a media shield when you’re not. So it’s with all manner of seasoning that yours truly eats his words, and admits he was wrong about the Golden State Warriors.

There are no caveats or excuses. We who thought the Thunder cracked the Curry Code were wrong. Of course, there’s more to the Warriors than Steph Curry and his splash brother Klay Thompson, but they are the primary reason this season continues to be magical in Oakland.

And beyond the bejeweled jump-shooting brethren, they play the very team game the Thunder forgot. As soon as the games got close and clutch, Russell Westbrook, as talented as anyone west of LeBron James, reverted back to schoolyard ball, with galling dribble-and-shoot shows. Kevin Durant, for all his physical splendor, didn’t close Game 6 at home.

Was it all Warriors or did the Thunder give it to them? You don’t win or lose a 3-1 lead without an amalgam of big and bad moments. Klay Thompson saved the Warriors in Game 6, and Curry closed Game 7, while the dynamic duo on the other side (Durant & Westbrook) seemed to lack that mutant gene that the greats seem to have at crunch time.

Oklahoma City had double-digit leads in the last two games of the series, and failed. Durant and Westbrook are building a reputation as a wildly talented tandem that can’t win the big one. Westbrook in particular has an Iversonian quality, a selfish basketball player who often forgets over the course of a game that he has teammates.

But this series was also won. You don’t pull out three straight after being blown out in consecutive games without a hybrid of gifts and grit. Just like they flipped the physics of basketball the last two seasons, they just broke a 0-42 streak for teams that trailed 3-1 in the conference finals or later. They’re just the 10th team in NBA history to mount such an epic comeback in any round of the playoffs.

Speaking of epic, this sets up an NBA Finals for the ages. The Warriors – Cavaliers series, which starts Thursday, is more than a rematch or redux. It’s a legacy-building stage for Steph, and legacy-sealing occasion for LeBron.

The various power indexes make the Warriors about a 3-to-1 favorite, which feels a bit steep. If LeBron didn’t have enough incentive to bring his forlorn franchise and his native Ohio its first title since Jim Brown led the Browns to the 1964 NFL crown, he’s got the twin-burdens of proving the Cavs are equals at full health and that he, not Curry, is still the NBA player nonpareil.

But no matter who wins, you won’t find this sportswriter underestimating the Golden State Warriors again. Even if they fall behind 3-1. Again.

Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there’s a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden. Follow him on Twitter @JasonKeidel.

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