The Warriors are not currently playing like champions.
When the Golden State Warriors overcame expectations to win their fourth championship in eight years, they may have demonstrated the adage that you should never underestimate a champion’s heart. Every champion, however, eventually loses their title. No dynasty lasts for all time. Father Time is still unbeatable. Rarely do his victims submit to defeat gracefully.
Recently, at least in terms of their rivalry with the Memphis Grizzlies, the Golden State Warriors haven’t. They clashed for the second time in nine days on Saturday. Memphis was without standout point guard Ja Morant, as well as several other supporting players, in both games. It wasn’t important. The Grizzlies won both games by a total of 35 points. The continuing fight between Warriors forward Draymond Green and Grizzlies wing Dillon Brooks dominated the opening game of the series.
The second was characterized by a much tranquil period. Klay Thompson of the Warriors flashed the Grizzlies four fingers with 17.1 seconds left in the Memphis Grizzlies’ victory.
Klay counts down from 4
After the conclusion of the Warriors-Grizzlies game, Klay and Dillon Brooks pic.twitter.com/pcgn1CFM73
March 19, 2023, Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport)
Thompson had already made the motion. In an altercation with Devin Booker earlier in the season, he did it more subtly. Both times, the message was crystal obvious. Being a four-time champion, the Warriors would not tolerate any disrespect from up-and-comers. Green expressed it after several of his team’s games against Memphis this season. He made it clear in December and again in March that he doesn’t view the Grizzlies as a rival because they haven’t yet defeated them in the playoffs.
The Warriors have accomplished more than the Grizzlies and Suns combined. They most likely won’t ever. And given that the three clubs are vying for the 2023 championship rather than the 2022, 2018, 2017, or 2015 trophies that have already been given out, that basically signifies nothing. The Warriors’ obsession with the past is unlikely to make their gloomy present much brighter.
The number of road victories Thompson had participated in for Golden State this year was just one finger away from being reached. The Warriors have a 7-29 overall record outside from San Francisco. His 14 points on Saturday fell just two short of Golden State’s net rating of No. 16, which was 16. The Warriors are a.500 team after 72 games with a record of 36-36. They were 146 games over.500 at the 72-game point in each of their four championship seasons.
That should make it very obvious that, up to this point at least, the Warriors championship teams were a notch above this one. Perhaps we shouldn’t underestimate the champion’s heart as they make an effort to show that there is still some of the old Warriors in them. At the very least, it would be difficult to argue that this club doesn’t have a lot of potential to grow. Thompson, Green, and Stephen Curry, the team’s cornerstone, have missed a total of 47 games. The team currently does not have Andrew Wiggins, and it is unclear when he will rejoin them. Gary Payton II is injured with an undetermined timeline of his own. The five-man starting lineup of Curry, Thompson, Green, Wiggins, and Looney has still outscored opponents by a total of 145 points despite all of the injuries and turbulence. The starters for Denver have the best scoring margin. If you catch Golden State at this moment, they might even resemble the Warriors.
Yet, this is mostly just a club that struggles to defend guards or maintain leads with bench units, especially outside of the Bay Area. It has trouble grabbing rebounds or scoring in the closing minutes of games. If Thompson ever wants to point that fifth finger, these things need to alter. The Warriors may still have a champion’s heart, but if Father Time has already claimed the rest of their body, it won’t help them at all.