The Warriors entered this postseason as an unknown. Klay Thompson only played once as the schedule changed to 2022, Draymond Green dealt with an injury that kept him out for two months and then Steph Curry missed the final 12 games of the regular season with a foot injury.
All told, the Warriors were a sub-.500 team after the All-Star Game and entered the postseason without a fixed rotation, momentum or any sort of continuity on either end of the floor.
So of course they made it to the NBA Finals.
Now that Golden State is through its sixth NBA Finals in eight years and four wins away from a fourth title, there are plenty of believers in the Warriors once again.
The wise guys in the desert — or, more accurately, the bookmakers who send odds to your phone in certain states — love the Warriors to win the title, regardless of the opponent.
In fact, after Boston lost a deciding game at home to Miami on Friday night, pushing the Western Conference Finals to a Game 7, it seems everyone, not just the punters, is on Dubs.
But computers remain skeptical.
Ok, I only know of one computer, but there could be more out there. Cyberspace is vast.
By now, you may have seen a screenshot or heard of the FiveThirtyEight website’s NBA predictive model. They call it RAPTOR, who cares why? – and as of Saturday morning, he says that the Warriors, despite being in the NBA Finals and being the favorites to win the title, have only a 29 percent chance of winning the series.
I’m not a statistician or a big NBA guy, but that seems high… pic.twitter.com/G38XDefanw
— Kyle Cattermole (@KCattermole) May 28, 2022
Twenty nine percent?
Surely they must be kidding.
(Did I do a good job of feigning outrage there?)
That Golden State title percentage, which has risen from a low of 7 percent in recent weeks, has become an Internet meme. It’s been so discussed, along with the necessary outrage, of course (it’s the internet, after all), that it might lead someone to believe that these Warriors are the second coming of the We Believe team.
Well, I’m sorry to say that these dubs are not losers.
No, Golden State was instead a team that had only played to its full potential for a few moments, a few games at most, this season.
And now it’s fair to say the Warriors are playing close to that level as they await their opponent in the NBA Finals. Things have changed for the Warriors.
The model remained the same.
The truth is that 11 total minutes of Steph, Klay and Dray together on the court in the regular season will mess up the predictive algorithm a bit.
You can only put out what you put in, and what the Warriors had put in before the postseason (and even in the postseason) was not championship material.
Some opinionated columnist might even have written a column in early March saying the team had lost the benefit of the doubt regarding its championship contender credentials.
I’m not sure when, exactly, those credentials were retrieved. The Memphis series finale, perhaps? That even seems like a stretch given that the Warriors played their first-round opponent, the Nuggets, and were pressed hard by the Grizzlies, who at one point in Game 5 of that series held a 55-point lead.
Maybe the twist didn’t happen until the Warriors played Dallas. Maybe it came after they beat Dallas. It’s kind of hard to tell a team isn’t a championship contender when they’re now playing for a title.
It could be argued that a team that is four wins away from raising a banner has not yet played its best basketball this season.
This could be the reality of the new NBA. In a sport so often defined by dominant squads, this is an era of parity.
There was even a colloquial name for it: the post-Warrior era.
We might want to get together and think about rebranding that one.
The Warriors have found their form this postseason and that deserves applause and trophies.
But let’s be honest: All three of the team’s matchups heading into these Finals have also turned out in their favour.
A short-handed Denver team didn’t stand a chance against the Dubs, even with NBA MVP Nikola Jokić.
Once Memphis lost Ja Morant, that was the curtain call for them in the semifinals.
And then the Mavericks tried to beat the Warriors with a guy. How did anyone think that was going to work out?
But the results are unblemished: The Warriors have won three out of four games this postseason. They also have the best offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) in the playoffs. Curry, Green and Thompson have played 308 minutes together this postseason and have outscored opponents by 61 points.
Whether it’s matchups, a team getting in shape, or a combination of those two things and more, the Warriors are undoubtedly a different team now than they were just a few weeks ago.
The data that brought you the now-famous 29 percent number is out of date. And there is nothing that FiveThirtyEight or any other similar operation can do about it.
The Warriors placed them in sandbags. They bagged us all.
And speaking of sand, if you want to know what the Warriors’ real chances are of winning this year’s title, go with the numbers from the guys in the desert.