Back-to-back Titles on Deck? Warriors Aim to Defy Logic and History

Steve Kerr said all along that this would be the toughest season, and the results are stating his case. The Warriors are trying to do what no NBA team has ever done, with history arguing against them and logic blocking their path.

As they go to work on Thursday, still without Stephen Curry, is there reasonable cause for their fans to be concerned about them repeating as champs? Absolutely.

Is there any reason to be certain they'll "flip the switch" when the real season begins at noon Saturday against the San Antonio Spurs? None whatsoever.

"There should always be a question in your mind if that switch is going to flip," Draymond Green said after the season finale in Utah. "As a basketball player, you know it doesn't work like that.

"Nonetheless, if anybody is capable of it, we are."

The question then becomes whether flipping the switch will be enough in a season during which the Warriors rarely have been the best team. They lost three times to the Jazz, twice to the Rockets and Nuggets and also, for crying out loud, the Kings.

The Warriors are chasing a fourth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals, and a third championship within that time frame. Only three franchises have made four straight trips to The Finals since the 1976 NBA-ABA merger, and none won all four.

None won even three of the four, as the Warriors are attempting to do.

None won back-to-back titles in Years 3 and 4, as the Warriors are trying to do.

The Lakers (1981-85) behind Magic Johnson were the first, and they won in Year 4 after losing in Years 2 and 3. The Celtics (1983-87) behind Larry Bird were the next, and they went win-lose-win-lose lost. The Heat made four trips in a row, losing in Year 4 after winning successive titles in 2012 and 2013.

Time to raise the caution flag: Miami in 2014 limped into the postseason. The Heat closed the regular season losing five of six and went 10-11 over the last 21 games.

Sound ominously familiar?

The Warriors closed by losing six of 10. They went 7-10 over their last 17 games.

"We've got to know that we've got to be better than we were to finish the season," Kevin Durant said after the regular-season finale. "I know we didn't have a lot to play for, but just playing in general should get us all up to play some ball.

"We had some games, some moments here and there, but for the most part we've got to be way better if want to do what we want to do in the postseason. But I'm confident that we will."

That confidence goes through the entire team, a product of consistent success. When the road to three straight Finals appearances has only one Game 7 in a total of nine series, faith comes naturally. When the last trip went through three straight four-game sweeps, it can foster presumption.

But logic shouts that Warriors won't have enough to reach the top in June. Repeating is difficult enough under any circumstance, but it's highly improbable when there have been so many injuries and so little continuity.

When the foundational player, Curry, and the bedrock principle -- nasty defense -- are irregular presences, logic dictates the ride be shorter and ends without a parade.

"I have no worries about this team," Klay Thompson said. "I know we've been battle tested. It's been an injury-riddled year. But we know what it takes to win in the playoffs. We can't wait to get there."

It arrives Saturday. The Spurs, coming off their most unexceptional season since 1996-97, are vulnerable. The Warriors should be able to beat them without Curry.

And then it's on to the winner of the Portland-New Orleans series. The Warriors are capable of beating either team without Curry, but the expectation that he would be ready at some point in the second round, if not Game 1.

The strong likelihood is that the Rockets will be there, waiting, in the Western Conference Finals. Houston's stars, James Harden and Chris Paul, have much to prove but they may be ready.

And then would come The Finals.

The Warriors last postseason went 16-1. Now, they would take 16-12.

"It's a hard feat. Our guys know that," Kerr said. "You've got two choices. You either fight through everything and bring your spirit, bring everything you've got and go for it. Or you go quietly. You've got a choice."

If the Warriors don't repeat, the rationale will be transparent. The obstacle course, treacherous and unforgiving, got the best of them. Reasonable folks will understand.

But if they pull this off and defy history after all they have been through, the rest of the league should find a cave, go inside and stay there until the Warriors are too old, too injured or too splintered to prevent their own collapse.

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