NBA Finals 2019: Warriors' extra rest not only gives them time to get healthy, but also time to study Raptors and Bucks
Steve Kerr and Steph Curry said they've both picked things up by watching Eastern Conference finals games
The main benefit of the Golden State Warriors sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers to earn nine days off before Game 1 of the NBA Finals is rest, both mental and physical. With notable injuries to Kevin Durant (still hasn't resumed on-court activities), DeMarcus Cousins (scrimmaged for the first time on Friday) and Andre Iguodala (has not yet returned to practice), the health implications of the extra down time are clear. Players like Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, who took on added responsibilities due to the injuries, also get a chance to decompress.
An added benefit of the time off, however, is that the Warriors get an intimate look at their Finals opponent. Without having a series of their own to worry about, Golden State can focus on the last few games of the Eastern Conference finals to pick up the habits and tendencies of the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said that the staff isn't going to do any in-depth preparation until they know their opponent, but he also said it's impossible for him to just sit back and enjoy the Eastern Conference finals as a fan, try as he might.
"I love watching games as a fan. It's incredible basketball, some of the best players in the world, and with the stakes so high, the level of play is so intense," Kerr said after practice on Friday. "It's been fun to watch, but of course, I've got my eye on what each team is doing and trying to figure out how we would play each one of them. Eventually we'll have an opponent, but not yet."
The Warriors needed seven games to dispatch the Houston Rockets in last year's Western Conference finals, leaving them just two days of rest before their NBA Finals series against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. This time around, Stephen Curry says it's almost like doing homework when he's watching the Bucks and Raptors do battle.
"It's a weird experience, obviously, because you're kind of nitpicking both teams, studying them, obviously not knowing which one you're gonna play," Curry said on Friday. "But just following this series, it's been pretty interesting. How Toronto fought back and took a lead in the series, you know, the games coming down to last possessions like most playoff games do. They have a lot of great talent on both teams -- a lot of similarities, but we'll have to wait and see who we play."
Curry already mentioned how his team's experience could give Golden State an advantage in Game 1, no matter which team they end up playing. Of the Raptors, only Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Serge Ibaka have significant Finals experience (former Warrior Patrick McCaw does too, but he's unlikely to join the rotation any time soon). For the Bucks, only Pau Gasol, who is out for the rest of the postseason after foot surgery, has been a key member of an NBA Finals team.
The Warriors' experience, plus the added time to rest and scout (the Bucks or Raptors will only have two days off if the series goes seven games), could give them a real advantage in Game 1 of the Finals, despite being on the road.
"For us having been [to the Finals] five straight times, and whoever we play will be their first time in a while, like we've got to be able to come in Game 1 with the right mindset," Curry said after closing out the Portland series. "Last year's Western Conference finals will help us in terms of having that experience, having to start on the road. We won Game 1 and figured it out from there."
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