Image courtesy of Erik Drost's Flickr page - Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrost88/18712418510/in/photolist-uvy36m-uKQ6xG-tRgUTP-uvtpVm-uKQmv7-uvGFwB-uMFFeG-uNpE1e-tBehBy-uN3P3D-tR2Qho-HUSfr-4Taf5q-uvASzv-7vAzf2-qHUK2k-r52g6V-6K6Fki-bgddQ6-4G4nGd-r4UoZy-7NjrkD-9nssXS-rmt3kn-JgQiv-uoEiQf-djFciv-rmokYq-r4Ujq3-7hGokn-4iSMB3-bgdChx-47g67u-qKt9Fn-qKuV8z-qKt9yP-qKt9Ea-3pYanc-4C12US-uvyAju-uvyCCs-buWvMB-3q3GXA-eedDRY-7NopXJ-6r3FD-6r3uV-3pYaeB-dZTukn-dZTkBK
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Yes, the Golden State Warriors were one of those rare teams all season long, pushing the boundaries of what we had previously known was possible.
They raced out to a record 24-0 undefeated start, best of any professional sports team in North America throughout history. They continued on a hot pace all season, managing to become the first NBA team in history to avoid losing two straight games all season regular season long. Finally, they managed to complete a 73-9 record, thus surpassing the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team that had held the previous mark for regular season success with their 72-10 season, which many felt would be impossible to improve upon.
The Warriors followed this script more of less through the first two rounds, beating Houston and then Portland 4-1 in each series, respectively.
Then came this tough series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who had just managed to dispatch another historically dominant team in the San Antonio Spurs. They looked like a dangerous team and, indeed, it was immediately apparent that the Warriors would have their hands full against them.
Golden State lost the opening game, but then managed to win the second one to tie the series up at 1-1.
But when the series shifted to Oklahoma City for Games 3 and 4, the Thunder suddenly seemed to own all of the momentum. They dominated the Warriors, and suddenly, it almost felt like Golden State's dominance last season and throughout this season might as well have been a distant memory. Quite frankly, it was hard to see how the Warriors could come back and make a series of it, let alone pull it out.
Still, it was time to take things one game at a time. That Golden State did as the series shifted back to the Bay area. The Warriors managed to pull off a solid victory there, as they stopped the bleeding a bit, pulling the series to 3 games to 2, in favor of OKC.
Game 6 was perhaps the biggest deciding game of the series. If OKC was going to pull off what would amount to a shocking upset, it would have to be here. But Kevin Durant did not have a particularly good game, and OKC in general just seemed a little flat, particularly in the game's final minutes. OKC had a lead of seven points as the game approached the final minutes, but it was all Golden State towards the end, as they (and particularly Klay Thompson) hit clutch shot after clutch shot. In the end, they managed to pull off a difficult road win to force a decisive Game 7, which they had the privilege of hosting.
It was an intense Game 7, but you could sense that the Warriors just refused to give up after having gone through so much just in this series alone.
So now, the Warriors move onto the NBA Finals, for a rematch of last year's Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.
Golden State won last year, but the Cavs were hurting at the time. Right now, they look fully healthy, and despite a tougher challenge than expected against Toronto, Cleveland should feel quite well rested entering into this series.
That said, Golden State has been tested now more than they had really been last year, and they are probably a better team for it. Also, they have been here before, and know what it is like to win. So, they have some decisive advantages, as well.
This is going to be a great series!