When Kevin Durant went to the Golden State Warriors this past off-season, the entire league as well as fans stood in disbelief. It seemed as though half the fans and media raved with excitement, while the other half huffed and puffed with judgemental slurs.
Everyone predicted that it would be the Warriors and the Cavs in the NBA Finals again for a third time competing for a championship. However, as we approach the end of the regular season the idea doesn't seem as automatic as it did before the season started.
Today, the Spurs are only a half game behind the Warriors to take the one seed in the playoffs. Being the one seed doesn't mean you're automatically going to the Finals, but it makes a huge difference. With that in mind, the Spurs are right on the heels of the Warriors for first place and they have a really good chance at taking the crown.
However, who takes the one seed in the West when the history for this year's regular season is written in stone with no turning back?
Looking at the Schedules
When you compare theWarriors scheduleto theSpurs scheduleand consider home games, away games and the teams each team has to play some would say that the Warriors have an easier schedule.
In my opinion, it's about the same...
I think most people, myself included, don't really look at the Warriors as a beatable team. They appear to be a God sent team. We seem to mark them off as beating everyone, every game.
While we're not wrong to a large degree, let's not look past a few things:
The team's chemistry has been disrupted. To what degree no one can really say, but I would guess that the effect isn't that large. However, with Durant gone the Warriors don't play as crisp as they usually look.
How quickly they get back on track whenever Durant gets back will make a huge difference. The Spurs on the other hand are practically clicking on all cylinders.
They may have a better system in place, because they suffer from injury too, you know...
With Durant out of the picture recuperating, the Warrior players have to pull a whole lot more out of themselves in terms of emotion. They have to get even more hyped up for a game possibly building up their opponents to be bigger than what they are in their heads in order to mentally get up to play against a team they would normally beat without any problems or as much preparation.
If it's not clear, then this should be. Having your emotions drained too early in the season can be detrimental. The Warriors went 73-9 last season, but lost in the Finals. They drained their energy by exerting too much emotion.
The Spurs aren't faced with much emotional exertion because every year they're usually a low key team, performing well and barely making headlines. That's Spurs basketball, and it works!
3. Season Duration
82 games make for a very long season. And, although the Warriors are a veteran team, when you've been to the Finals 2 seasons in a row, the post season hang over can really start to have an effect on their game of play.
Plus, like any other team, the long season just makes them vulnerable.
The Spurs have a longevity history at persevering through long seasons. So, they may be a little better equipped for all of the pressures happening right now for the fight for the one seed. And let's face it, the Spurs are under less pressure, because it's a championship or bust expectation for the Warriors.
In the end, the schedule is a neutralizer in my opinion. Both teams are playing limp, but the Spurs are better equipped with a great starting 5 as well as a solid bench. So, that's a leg up on the Warriors that they have to fight through with one of their most valuable players out due to injury. Not to mention or even get detailed with what they gave up in order to acquire Durant.
Does it Matter Who Wins it?
I don't think so. Both teams know how to win on the road and have a veteran core together that's worth bragging about.
However, I do think it's in both of their best interest to win the number one seed for two reasons. First, they want home court advantage throughout the playoffs. And second, they want the easiest road possible to the Finals. With that said, there's barely any idea of easy associated with the Western conference, but let's face it, the one seed typically plays against more inferior teams. Once you evaluate the regular season records.
Counter intuitive of what everybody thought, the regular season crown isn't automatically going to the Warriors. It's going to be a dog fight until the very end when the final 82nd game is played, making the last few games of the regular season feel like playoff games.