TORONTO — You are new to this basketball thing. You have limited interest in the Stanley Cup Final because, like a sane person, you do not want Boston to win another bloody championship, and the alternative is the St. Louis Blues, hockey’s living embodiment of that blank-face emoji.You’ve started watching the Raptors, and have learned that Kawhi Leonard is very good, even if he limps a little, and Kyle Lowry dives all over the place, and Fred VanVleet couldn’t hit a shot until he couldn’t miss.But, these Golden State Warriors. You’re vaguely aware that they are good. You’ve got some questions. Go ahead. We’ve got answers.What kind of a dumb name is Golden State?Ah, yes, that. Fair point. The Warriors began life in the late 1940s in Philadelphia, and moved to San Francisco in 1962. They were the San Francisco Warriors for nine years, then moved around the bay to Oakland. But because they didn’t want the San Francisco people to completely abandon them, they didn’t just call themselves the Oakland Warriors. Thus, Golden State, which has been a California motto at various times. Of course the idea that they represent the whole state makes no sense, since there are three other NBA teams in it. And the team is moving to a new arena in San Francisco next season, so they could just change the name back and save some confusion.The Warriors are good, yes?Correct. Even non-basketball fans like yourself know that much. But it’s hard to state just how good the Warriors have been. They have won three of the past four NBA titles, and lost in the Finals in the other one, after a regular season in which they set a record with 73 wins and nine losses. They are only the sixth franchise in any of the big four North American leagues to make at least five straight finals, joining the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Browns, New York Yankees and New York Islanders.
Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors looks on during a timeout in game four of the NBA Western Conference Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center on May 20, 2019 in Portland, Oregon.
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That is pretty goodIt is! But, there’s more. Those other streaks took place in the ‘50s and ‘60s, with the exception of the Islanders, whose run ended in 1984, all of them long before leagues expanded greatly and parity was enforced by measures like salary caps and free agency. The Warriors are doing what they have done with a much higher degree of difficulty.Mercy. So what makes them so good?Eh, merely that they have revolutionized basketball. When point guard Stephen Curry hit 286 three-pointers in that first title season, it was a new record, and only two players had hit as many as 260 in the previous 20 years. Then he made 402 — not a typo — the following season, and his backcourt mate Klay Thompson hit 276, which was a top-five all-time number but has since been knocked down a peg because other teams and players have all started bombing away like mad. Curry and Thompson are arguably the two greatest long-range shooters of all time, in part because they do it so often. When Larry Bird was the NBA MVP after the 1986 season, he led the league with 82 made threes. There was much skepticism that a team that emphasized shooting from distance could win a title, but the Warriors have proven that you can, provided that you are exceptionally good at it. So, they rain down a hail of three-pointers, and you get buried under the weight of it all?That’s certainly part of it. Curry and Thompson are deadly, the Splash Brothers. Get it? Like Oakland’s Bash Brothers, but for basketball. And without the steroids. But Draymond Green does all kinds of things well, and Andre Iguodala is a defensive wizard who was a Finals MVP himself.Yikes. Those four guys sound like they would be a handf—WAIT! I haven’t even gotten to Kevin Durant yet. He’s the six-foot-10 forward with the skills of a shooting guard. He’s a former MVP, and two-time Finals MVP, and he was leading the playoffs in points per game — ahead of Kawhi Leonard — when he was hurt in Game 5 of the second round. He can’t be league MVP on such a loaded team, but it looked like he was asserting himself as the game’s most dangerous player when he went out. He’s still hurt. Strained calf, they say.
Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors dunks the ball on James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets during Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on May 08, 2019 in Oakland, California.
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Ah, so the Warriors must have struggled without himThey won five straight. Six if you include the game when he was hurt.Wait, what? They have improved since they lost, and I quote, ‘the game’s most dangerous player’?I know, I know. It’s nutty. But absent Durant, they go back to being the Warriors that won a title, and were up 3-1 the following season before LeBron and the Cavs shocked everybody. They are dazzling team, full of movement and versatility and all that shooting. With Durant, they do some of that, but also have an all-time isolation scorer when needed. He hit long-range killshots in Game 3 of each of the past two Finals to put the Warriors up 3-0 and effectively clinch. It’s a problem.This does not bode well for the RaptorsIt does not. But, look, the Milwaukee Bucks won more games than the Warriors this season, they had only lost two straight once, and never three in a row. Toronto beat them four straight.So, you’re saying there’s a chance?That’s what I’m saying.