How did Golden State Warriors manage a sensational turnaround?


New Delhi, First Published May 31, 2022, 2:00 AM IST

Heading into the 202-1/22 NBA season, expectations for the Warriors weren’t too high from the outside. The team had just missed the playoffs for two straight years, and there wasn’t a significant trade either. Klay Thompson was supposed to return later in the season. However, his impact coming off a two-year injury layoff was a question mark too. Then, the season started, and the Warriors looked as good as ever. Stephen Curry was dominant, breaking Ray Allen’s all-time three-pointer record in December, and Draymond Green was playing at a defensive player of the year level. 

Despite some competition from the Suns, the Warriors had the league-best record for most of the first three months of the season. However, as the season progressed, things started to go downhill. Steph Curry would miss games through multiple injuries, including one that would see him miss the last 12 games of the regular season.

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Draymond Green, who was the early Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) favourite, would miss most of the second half of the regular season and play only 46 games in the season. While getting Klay Thompson back was a morale booster, integrating him from a significant injury had its growing pains. Despite a Jordan Poole breakout in the latter stages, the Warriors slipped from the best record in the league to the third-best record in the west. The Suns and Grizzlies were able to overtake the Warriors in the standings. 

As Steph Curry was coming off an injury, the Warriors decided to use him off the bench in the first round. Steph dominated the Nuggets’ defence despite fewer minutes as the Warriors comfortably advanced to the second round in five games. The Warriors had three 20-point scorers in the series with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Jordan Poole. Both Thompson and Poole kept the Warriors afloat in the latter stages of the regular season when most of the core was decimated with injuries and carried their form to the post-season.

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The second round was a more extensive test for the Warriors as they went up against the second-seeded Memphis Grizzlies, which had homecourt. The two teams split the opening two games, with both games being competitive till the last minute. Ja Morant, who scored 47 points in Memphis’s Game 2, added another 35 points. However, he couldn’t stop the Grizzlies from being blown out in Game 3. The aftermath of the game of Game 3 was arguably a turning point in the series, as Ja Morant was eventually ruled out of the series due to injury. Despite this, the Grizzlies remained competitive. However, they lost two close games in Games 4 and 6 to lose the series in six games.

The Warriors faced the Mavericks in the Conference Finals after the latter Mavericks upset the Suns in seven games. After a comfortable win in game one, the Warriors found themselves down 14 at the half in Game 2. Thanks to an excellent defensive display and an all-around well-executed, the Warriors managed to dig themselves out of the deficit and win Game 2. The Warriors sealed the series when they defeated the Mavs in Game 3, and after Klay Thompson’s masterclass in Game 5, it was confirmed that the Warriors would be playing in their fifth final for 7seven years. Klay’s back-court partner Steph Curry was awarded the Inaugural Magic Johnson Most Valuable Player (MVP) trophy for his display in the Western Conference Finals.

Last Updated May 31, 2022, 2:00 AM IST

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