Golden State entered this season as the odds-on favorite to win the NBA title. After all, it's expected that the defending champion repeats in their respective sport. However, the Warriors' chances of repeating are in a bit of limbo due to a myriad of injuries and emergence of James Harden and the Houston Rockets.
Golden State's first round opponent is a familiar foe in San Antonio. However, San Antonio is facing some problems of their own. The Kawhi Leonard saga, from injury to absence, has hampered the Spurs to the point of having to earn a playoff spot in the last week. Without Leonard, the Spurs don't have an extra scorer in the wings and are left as a bit one-dimensional. It's expected that Leonard will be traded soon due to tensions between him and the franchise, so Golden State should get a pass to the next round.
Stephen Curry will be a key player in how the Warriors do this postseason. Not only will he become a factor beyond the arc, he'll be a factor in the pick-and-roll. How will he and Durant do when Houston employs a switch-type defense? Can Curry stay 100 percent healthy in the playoffs?
Houston may not be the only team that's a threat to the Warriors. Portland has a lethal backcourt and the emergence of Jusuf Nurkic (14.3 PPG, nine rebounds a game) has turned the Trail Blazers into a formidable foe. Another team to watch for is Utah. Rookie of the Year contender Donovan Mitchell (20.5 PPG) has made Utah fans forget about Gordon Hayward and players like Derrick Favors (12.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG) and Rudy Gobert (2.3 blocks per game, 10.7 RPG) make the Jazz gritty on the boards. Don't sleep on the Toronto Raptors, either. DeMar DeRozan is starting to break out as an NBA star and they have plenty of depth.
If Golden State is to repeat, they have their work cut out for them. New foes rising to the cause and outside factors like injuries may derail Golden State's season. It'll be 'all hands on deck' this time around.
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