Warriors have an opportunity to earn valuable rest ahead of the NBA Finals as the Eastern Conference bloodbath continues

The Golden State Warriors will be the first to tell you that they’re not looking ahead — that they’re only focused on the next game and nothing else. However, history overwhelmingly tells us that they are almost certainly headed for their sixth NBA Finals in eight seasons.

The Warriors’ 109-100 win in Sunday’s Game 3 against the Dallas Mavericks gave them a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals, and no NBA team has ever – ever – come back from that deficit in a postseason series. It’s also not a small sample size. Teams leading 3-0 have won 146-0 in their playoff series throughout NBA history. Given the way the Warriors played against the Mavericks and the two series before that, it’s almost impossible to imagine them being the first to lose such an advantage.

That said, Golden State isn’t a franchise that’s likely to take leadership for granted. They lost the 2016 finals after holding a 3-1 advantage, prompting years of ridicule and viral memes. So you can expect Golden State to be looking for the kill in Tuesday’s Game 4 against a Mavericks team that looked frustrated and down towards the end of Game 3.

“Obviously we know the job isn’t done, but it feels good to know we came and we won,” Stephen Curry said after Game 3. “We can play house money on Tuesday and try to do it to do.”

Ending a streak quickly is always valuable — it gives players time to rest, heal injuries, and coaches to prepare — but it seems even more important for warriors given what’s on the other side of the world bracket plays. The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat are in the midst of a bloodbath with the two teams like Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago exchanging fierce blows. Here’s a short sampling of the injuries that have already impacted the series:

  • Jimmy Butler was only able to play the first half of Game 3 due to knee pain.
  • Jayson Tatum suffered a nerve injury in his shoulder and briefly went to the dressing room in Game 3.
  • Marcus Smart missed Game 1 with a sprained foot, then played through on Saturday with what appeared to be a serious ankle injury and is a Game 4 doubt.
  • Kyle Lowry missed the first two games of the series with a hamstring injury.
  • PJ Tucker left Game 2 early with a knee infection.
  • Robert Williams missed Game 3 with knee pain.
  • Al Horford missed Game 1 due to health and safety protocols.

Not to mention Tyler Herro, Max Strus, and Gabe Vincent, who have all appeared on the Heat injury report throughout the series. Given the physicality on display and the fact that the fight seems set for seven games, it’s hard to imagine either team coming out with a full, healthy roster.

The Warriors, on the other hand, have two key bench players, Andre Iguodala and Gary Payton II, out for at least another week, while Otto Porter Jr. left Game 3 with a foot injury, but for the most part they’ve been able to stay healthy. That’s no easy feat when your team’s core players — Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green — are all over 32, with playoff mileage roughly the size of Jupiter and recent injuries still working through them.

“It’s very important,” Thompson said, that he could possibly get some extra rest ahead of the NBA Finals. “We want to go fully into the next round.”

The first game of the NBA Finals will take place on June 2nd. So if the Warriors complete the sweep on Tuesday, they have eight full days off. If the Eastern Conference Finals spans seven games, the winning team has only three days off before the Finals begin.

The Warriors have already shown what they can do with a residual advantage this postseason. They’ve defeated the Memphis Grizzlies in six games, giving them four days off before the start of the Western Conference Finals. With just two days off after an emotional Game 7 win over the Phoenix Suns, the Mavericks were swept off the field by a rested Golden State team in Game 1 – yet more evidence the Warriors would benefit greatly from a sweep.

But first things first – the Warriors need to win on Tuesday. With a veteran group, they certainly know how valuable those extra rest days would be, so they’ll likely come out with a unique purpose in Game 4.

“Being a win away from the final means absolutely nothing,” Green said after Game 3. “You have one more game to win and this game isn’t going to be easy. So we need to make sure we arrive with an even better level of focus than tonight. … Closeout games are always the hardest. We have to come out and win the game. You won’t give it to us.

https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/warriors-have-opportunity-to-earn-valuable-rest-before-nba-finals-as-eastern-conference-bloodbath-continues/ Warriors have an opportunity to earn valuable rest ahead of the NBA Finals as the Eastern Conference bloodbath continues

Justin Scacco

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