Their Game 4 loss to the Nuggets notwithstanding, the Golden State Warriors have arguably been the most impressive team of the 2022 NBA Playoffs. Offensively, they’ve outpaced the field by a mile, posting a league-best O-rating of 125.4, as well as the postseason’s top effective field goal percentage (62.7).
Whether that production will yield another Finals run — three long years after the club fell short against the Kawhi Leonard-led Raptors in 2019 — remains to be seen.
For their part, the oddsmakers seem to like Golden State’s chances. In the immediate aftermath of Devin Booker’s ill-timed hamstring injury in Phoenix, the team suddenly became the odds-on favorite to capture the title. Sportsbooks aren’t the only ones picking the Warriors to win, though.
League insiders have become more bullish on the Warriors, too.
Rival Coach Says the Road to the Title Goes Through the Bay Area
Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney spoke with an Eastern Conference coach about the Warriors’ current title bid and, as the play-caller sees it, everything has lined up for Stephen Curry and Co. to get back to the top of the mountain this postseason.
“The Warriors have the best path to the Finals if there is no Booker,” the coach declared. “They’re saying maybe three weeks but those injuries are tricky and I am not sure the Suns get out of that second round without him.”
If that ends up being the case, the coach is of the belief that Golden State — which currently leads its first-round series with Denver 3-1 — becomes the clear-cut lead dog out West.
“That leaves the Warriors, head and shoulders above everyone in the West right now. Phoenix, so much of their offense depends on Booker and if you do not have him, they are not a hard team to defend,” the coach said.
“[Chris Paul] does not want to be a scorer. He can’t carry that load for you over a long period. So then you’re counting on [Deandre] Ayton and [Mikal] Bridges and [Cam] Johnson and that is not going to be enough for them.”
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Problems in the Pivot?
Although the Warriors look to be in a strong position to make a Finals run, they still have issues of their own to contend with. Chief among them is their lack of size in the pivot. Should the Dubs run into Phoenix during the later rounds, though, Booker’s injury should make things easier on them down low.
“I talked to a [Western Conference] assistant coach a little while ago — before Booker’s injury — and I asked what might be the biggest thing in the way for the Warriors, and it wasn’t Booker and it wasn’t Chris Paul,” Deveney said during a recent livestream. “It was Deandre Ayton because of his size and the difficulty they’ll have guarding him.”
Through four playoff games, Ayton has averaged 20.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. And while the former No. 1 pick would undoubtedly still give Golden State headaches — just as Nikola Jokic has in Round 1 — the Suns are still far less formidable without their leading scorer.
“He becomes a lot easier to guard if you don’t have to worry about Devin Booker on the perimeter,” added Deveney. “If he’s the guy you can focus on, if the No. 2 option is Ayton instead of Booker. That makes things a lot easier for the Warriors’ path.”