More impressive than their collection of talent or their slate of results, though, is their approach to the sport. It is not just that they play without ego; their M.O. is too elegant to frame as an absence of something. Rather, they resemble distinct limbs of a larger organism, some mutant aspen grove rooted together under the hardwood. They have realized basketball equilibrium, or paradise.
During a break in Wednesday night’s third game, the sideline reporter Doris Burke asked the Warriors coach Steve Kerr about his team’s propensity for sharing. “It’s just who they are,” Kerr replied. “They all like to pass, they all like to move the ball, and it works pretty well for them.”
That evening, it worked well enough to produce a heart-stopping back-and-forth victory that made the best use of all of the Warriors’ gifts. Curry maneuvered around the court with piscine quickness, darting to the rim or behind screens, making long-range three-pointers and odd-angled layups. Thompson added six triples of his own. Green—the team’s bleeding heart—threw expert passes and feuded with referees. Durant jogged upcourt in the final minute, blinked at LeBron James, hoisted his 6’11” frame, and swished what would prove the game-winning shot. Each star leveraged his own talents for the benefit of his teammates; the ball went from player to player like a thought among telepaths. Were it not so obviously improvisational, responding to the circumstances of every moment, the display would have seemed scripted.
“It’s probably the most firepower I’ve played in my career,” James said of the Warriors following the game, referring to their sheer assemblage of skill. Comments from Mark Jackson, the former Golden State head coach announcing the Finals for ABC, got closer to the truth. “An underrated part of the Warriors team is their unselfish spirit,” he said. “It’s contagious.”
Fans might scoff at the idea that any part of the Warriors could be underrated; they are predicted not only to finish off the Cavaliers in short order but to dominate the NBA for the foreseeable future. Golden State’s supremacy has not hurt the league’s television ratings yet, but some fear it could if it continues. “I think it becomes very boring when you don’t see a great team challenged,” Jackson’s announcing partner Jeff Van Gundy said on a recent episode of ESPN’s Lowe Post podcast. Indeed, games like Wednesday’s have been rarities, the Warriors more often sprinting to comfortable blowouts. Of their 15 postseason wins to this point, 12 have been by double-digits.
What drama they have encountered has only ended up affirming their stability. Kerr, dealing with complications from a recent back surgery, missed 11 playoff games, but the team didn’t skip a beat under the assistant coach Mike Brown. Upon returning to the team, Kerr heaped praise on his assistant, saying, “The way he’s handled this whole thing is incredible—just the humility and yet the confidence with which he took the reins.” Brown, for his part, credited the team culture for which Kerr is largely responsible: “Just being a part of this organization is fun.”