SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Martin Rogers breaks down Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, where the Warriors battled back to steal the win and take a 2-0 series lead on the Blazers.
OAKLAND – Draymond Green admitted that the uncertainty over the future of the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty has given him extra motivation to clinch another title this season.
Green helped the Warriors to a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference finals series against the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night, but despite the team seemingly cruising to another crack at a championship, he conceded that there was a different feel this year.
“We know that these runs don’t last forever,” Green said after the 114-111 victory. “Obviously there are so many questions about things that can possibly happen with this team in the summer. We are going to try to take advantage of this opportunity and make the most of it and deal with the things that come after whenever those things arrive.”
Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green celebrates.
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Kevin Durant has uttered virtually nothing on what he plans to do in free agency, though consensus around the league is that he is headed East, bound for the New York Knicks following a three-year stint with the Warriors that may end up bringing a trio of NBA championships.
And while Golden State has shown glimpses during Durant’s lingering calf injury that they can still win without him — and though they won one title and lost another following a 73-9 campaign before his arrival — there is also a realization that his departure would create a power shift in the NBA.
Klay Thompson’s contract is also set to expire, and while the most likely outcome appears to be that he will rejoin the Warriors on a long-term deal, he will have no shortage of interested parties.
For now, however, the length of time this current Warriors group has spent together only works in their favor. After a tired and miserable showing Game 1, the Trail Blazers came out strongly on Thursday to open up a 15-point gap at halftime, and another eight-point buffer with four minutes remaining.
Experience, poise and calm heads allowed the home side to prevail, capped off by Andre Iguodala stealing the ball from Damian Lillard on the final play.
“You can definitely credit it to experience,” Thompson said. “When you play 100-plus playoff games it doesn’t feel normal, but it feels like you have been there before.”
What this postseason has shown is the extent to which Golden State is better than the rest of the field. They endured some struggles in the regular season, finding it apparently hard to fully switch on at times, perhaps an unfortunate by-product of such a long period of sustained success.
However, whenever the serious questions have been asked during the playoffs, they have responded.
“Never losing our composure, understanding we can get stops and create open looks and get right back into the game,” Stephen Curry said. “You have just got to find a way to win and that’s what we did. We obviously got challenged to play with more energy, more fight and more focus and we answered. There is more edge when your back is against the wall. We have done it before.”
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green celebrate.
Heading to Portland for Game 3 on Saturday there is a growing sense that the Warriors are just hitting top gear. They have found some misfortune, and weathered as well as could have been hoped for.
Durant’s injury has no fixed timeline, though it seems certain that he will miss at least the bulk of this series.
“We can’t sit and look over our shoulders and think when is (he) going to be back,” Green added, noting that the recent injury to DeMarcus Cousins was handled the same way. “We have just got to play and give him an opportunity to get back. That’s what really falls on our shoulders.
“We are a much better team when he is on the floor. We have got to assume that they are not coming back and play with what we got. We are hoping that they do but while they are not out there we just got to play.”
The Warriors are indeed playing, at a higher level than we’ve seen since last year’s playoffs and several levels higher than anyone else. Who knows what the future holds, but with more and more certainty it seems the only people who can stop this recent glut of Warriors success are themselves.