The Golden State Warriors seemed to be en route to a decline after failing to snatch the top overall seed for the fourth straight season. Yet while not being first for the first time in four years was somewhat worrisome, it presented the opportunity to break out of the monotony.
The defending champions entered the postseason failing to reach the 60-win plateau for the first time in the Steve Kerr era, and having lost 10 of their last 17 games heading into the postseason, enough of a reason to have doubts about the shape of this team.
“Yeah, was I worried? My first thought was, ‘Yes.' But my second thought was, ‘Have they let us down yet?',” said Warriors general manager Bob Myers after Monday's 119-106 win over the Rockets, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.
Yet for players like Draymond Green who have come off three long trips to the postseason, it presented another obstacle to hurdle in the way of another championship after limping their way to the end of the regular season.
“It's the best time of year,” said Green of the postseason. “Playing for all the marbles, we're trying to win a championship; there's no reason not to lock in. The further you get along, the better it gets.”
The Rockets had won the regular season series 2-1 and came into the series with something no other team had over the Warriors in the last three years — home court advantage. To many, it's enough reason to be intimidated, to Green, another challenge to conquer.
“I think you need different challenges in life,” Green said. “You get the same thing over and over, you tend to take it for granted. It's a completely different feel for us.”
The Warriors stormed the Toyota Center and delivered a crushing blow right out of the gate, breaking through in the third quarter and carving a 13-point lead, one they would eventually ride to the end of Game 1.
Many were shocked at that locked-in approach, but not Myers, who has remained resilient throughout the process and the myriad of injuries the team faced over the course of the season.
“I think they're genuinely excited right now,” Myers said. “They have great respect for Houston. We're on the road, so it's natural for them to engage like that.”
The Warriors can sink the dagger even deeper by taking Game 2 on the road, likely crushing any hopes of coming out of this series alive against a savvy veteran team.